Shrine Bowl has strong Lancaster connection

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By The Staff

The highlight of the Shrine Bowl, the annual Carolinas’ all-star high school football game, is the amount of money the game makes each year and sends to help patients in Shrine hospitals.

The patients are youngsters who are crippled or those recovering from severe bums. The game’s slogan “strong legs run, so that weak legs may walk,” is most fitting. The game is played in the spirit that no matter the score, the patients, some only a few years younger than the elite players in the game, are going to some day be better with money raised from the game for their treatment.

The idea was taken from the annual East-West Shrine game, a post-season college all-star game, but implemented in the Carolinas with the thought of showcasing top senior football players from across the two states.

The game has been played since 1937. The game sites have changed from Charlotte, Rock Hill and now Spartanburg. But the game’s theme stands the same as it did dating back to the first kickoff in early December of 1937.

The 2008 game, held Dec. 20 at Gibbs Stadium on the campus of Wofford College, had a solid Lancaster County connection.

Four participants with Lancaster County ties were part of the 72nd all-star game. Lancaster native Keith Crolley, the head football coach at Crestwood High School in Sumter County, was a South Carolina assistant. The Sandlappers’ team had two players with local ties, William Kirkland of Lancaster High School and Jared Singleton of Lugoff-Elgin High School.

Lugoff-Elgin is a Class AAA school in neighboring Kershaw County, but Singleton has a county connection since he attended elementary school in Heath Springs where he still attends church. Singleton might have played high school football in Lancaster County, but his family moved to the Columbia area a few years ago and he attends school at Lugoff-Elgin. He still has roots here and we’re proud of his career. Kirkland’s story is special. He wasn’t originally picked to play for the South Carolina stars when the Sandlappers’ roster was released in October. But he was tabbed as an injury replacement early in the game week and he quickly responded to a rare call to join the team.

Kirkland obliged and gave a solid effort. After seeing a little playing time in the first half, he saw more action in the second half when the South Carolina stars rallied from a 16-3 halftime deficit to post a stunning 24-16 win over the North Carolina stars. He, along with Singleton and their South Carolina teammates, saw their prep football careers close on a winning note with the Sandlappers’ victory. Coach Crolley and the rest of the South Carolina coaching staff were all smiles after the game. The chance to coach in the Shrine Bowl is a career highlight and a win is icing on the cake in a memorable week.

The final link was official Jim Boylan, a Lancaster native who called the game as a back judge. Like the coaches and players, the game draws the states top officials and is a career highlight. Boylan, a 1981 graduate of Lancaster High School, has distinguished himself as a top high school football official over a 19-year career, which also includes calling the annual North-South All-Star game at Myrtle Beach.

Late in the game when the outcome was certain, some North Carolina players lost their cool, but Boylan and the game crew quickly stepped in and made sure the game concluded in the name of good sportsmanship.

The day, which featured typical Shrine Bowl weather – overcast with a frequent threat of rain – was still a beauty. No matter the outcome or weather, it always is. The South Carolina win was nice, but the game was played and funds were raised to support a truly worthy cause. For four game participants with local links, they did their part to make sure the contest was a winner for the 72nd time.