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SPARTANBURG – Buford High School head coach Mike Wells battled a nagging cold and sore throat for the better part of last week, but for how he felt Saturday afternoon, he couldn’t have felt better.
“I’m very pleased,” said Wells after the S.C. stars defeated the N.C stars, 23-19 in the 76th annual Shrine Bowl All-Star football game at Wofford College’s Gibbs Stadium on Saturday, Dec. 15.
“Everybody said we didn’t have a chance, but our players pulled together and played together to get this win,” Wells said. “For a Carolinas high school coach or player, the Shrine Bowl is the ultimate goal. It’s an honor to be here and to get a win when you’re a big underdog is a tremendous feeling.”
Wells was a member of the S.C. coaching staff, serving as the running backs coach for the week leading up to the game Saturday afternoon.
“This was one of the best N.C. teams ever in the history of the game,” Wells said. “We worked hard to be ready for the game and played hard.”
The talented Tar Heels’ squad featured over 20 players headed to the next level. The N.C. offensive line averaged 315 pounds and 6-5 in height.
Wells said he was pleased with the Sandlappers’ backs.
“All three of our backs played well and ran hard,” Wells said.
Early on, the Sandlappers appeared snake bit as Goose Creek’s Tramel Terry, a Georgia signee, was injured on the opening kickoff when the S.C. Mr. Football selection fumbled and N.C. took advantage for a quick 6-0 lead.
The talented Terry was lost for the game, watching from the sidelines.
“We handled adversity well,” Wells said. “We had some things go against us early, but we kept our focus and kept battling.
“I think the key is we had a good game plan and went out an executed it,” Wells said. “We didn’t panic, but just kept playing.”
Conway’s Mykal Moody’s five-yard scoring run early in the final period put S.C. up 16-13 and the Sandlappers held on for the comeback win.
“Since I was the first coach from Buford to coach in the game, I’m proud,” Wells said. “I was proud to represent our school, community and county.”
Lewisville High’s Malcolm “Mac” Means, who started in the S.C. secondary, was part of a Sandlappers’ defense which produced four turnovers, including three interceptions.
Means racked up seven tackles and broke up a pass.
“The last time Lewisville had a player in the Shrine Bowl was 2007, so it feels good to come here and represent Lewisville,” Means said. “It feels great that we won and to represent South Carolina is special.”
Wells praised Means’ play.
“Means was like the rest of our players who battled North Carolina tooth and nail,” Wells said. “Our defense gave us good field position and we made plays. Means was selected as an athlete and proved he could play anywhere out there.”
Wells said the Sandlappers’ win was a highlight, ranking equally with the team’s visit to the Shrine Hospital in Greenville on Sunday, Dec. 9.
Game proceeds benefit the hospital for burned and cripple children.
“Going to the hospital lets the players see what this game is all about,” Wells said. “It’s really not about winning and losing, but how these kids help those kids. It’s really true what they say, ‘Strong legs run so that weak legs may walk.’ ”
South Carolina, with its second win in the last three seasons, holds a 42-30-4 lead in the overall series which began in 1937 at Charlotte, N.C.