There was a time through the 1960s that high school football championships in SC were similarly decided the way college bowls and the media conspire to name national champs at the end of the year. Generally the NCAA Division 1 college championship is determined by opinion polls since there is no other clear–cut system.
After declaring mythical high school champions without benefit of playoffs, the SC High School League (SCHSL)) created a post–season playoff tournament to determine the best teams on the fields of action. The finals were played were on neutral fields. The first breakthrough came in 1970 when Lower Richland topped Eau Claire on the turf at Carolina (now Williams–Brice) Stadium.
In 1997, the entire slate of SCHSL games moved to the huge facility where the Upper and Lower State champions will meet again Friday night 8 pm.
The Weekend of Champions kicks off when Irmo’s Yellow Jackets (10–4) host the defending champion Rebels of Byrnes (12–1) in the Class AAAA Division II finale. Irmo’s most recent appearance was in 2002 when they were defeated by Rock Hill.
Byrnes defeated Conway in 2003 for the title.
Saturday’s clashes begin at 11 am as the only other defending titleholder, the Lamar Silver Foxes (14–0), go against the Calhoun Falls Blue Flashes (14–0) in the Class A battle. This will be Calhoun Falls first state championship game since 1975.
At 2 pm, Rock Hill’s Bearcats (12–1) battle with the Stratford Knights (13–1) before what should be the largest crowd of the day. The contest is between two of the largest AAAA Division I (Big 16) teams in the state. There are local connections. RHHS Head Coach Jim Ringer coached at Columbia High for a while and Coach Ray Stackley of Stratford is a graduate of Airport High.
In the AA title showdown at 5 o’clock, the combatants will be the Cheraw Braves (12–2) and the Broome Centurions. (10–4).
The last battle will be between two 14–0 teams as Dillon’s Wildcats and the Belton–Honea Bears play at 8 pm.
Tickets purchased from participating schools are $8 for each day. Those purchased at the stadium are $10 for each session.