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Buford High School head football coach Mike Wells, a S.C. Shrine Bowl assistant, said it’s been a busy week preparing for the 76th annual all-star football game at Gibbs Stadium on the Wofford College campus in Spartanburg. Kickoff Saturday is at 1 p.m.
“It’s been a lot of work, but once we got down to football, it’s been what you expect, a busy week with some talented football players,” said Wells during a break at the S.C. team’s practice late Thursday morning.
The Shrine Bowl, the nation’s oldest and most prestigious high school all-star football game, is played to benefit the Greenville (S.C.) Unit Shriners Hospitals for Children and 21 other Shriners Hospitals for Children across the nation.
The game, played the third weekend in December each year, caps the five Shrine Temples fundraising efforts.
The first Shrine Bowl of the Carolinas was played on Dec. 4, 1937 in Charlotte and since that time over $74 million has been raised for Shriners Hospitals.
Practice began Monday with two sessions each day Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. The team practice once Thursday and will practice once today in preparation for the game which features the top high school football players in the Carolinas.
“We arrived on Saturday and there was a good bit to take care of before we begin practice on Monday morning,” Wells said.
Team meetings, team photographs and the players’ arrival consume much of the time. The team also took its annual visit to the Shrine Hospital in Greenville for burned and cripple children on Sunday.
“Now that was an eye opener for these players, but they find out what this game is all about when they go to the hospital,” Wells said. “What really strikes you is that they get right in there with the kids and visit with them. It’s really a special moment for all of them.”
Wells, who is coaching the S.C. offensive backs, said drills have gone well.
“We’ve worked hard and this is a good group of players,” Wells said. “I’ve enjoyed working with them and getting to know them. We hit with contact practices early in the week and tapered off as the week wore on.
“As expected, since some of the players haven’t played in a week or more, there was some soreness and a few nicks, bumps and bruises.”
North Carolina, with its second win in the last three seasons, posted a 26-19 victory last season.
The Sandlappers hold a 41-30-4 edge in the overall series.
Wells will have some familiar company Saturday afternoon as the Buford High School cheerleaders will be boosting the Sandlappers’ spirit on the S.C. sidelines.
The Jackets’ cheerleaders, led by coach Julie Thompson, recently placed sixth in the Class AA state cheer competition in Greenville after qualifying third in the Class AA Lower State field.