As hard as it is to fathom, football season is upon us again. And while it’s still a bit sultry outside, you can almost smell the change in the air and hear the distant roar of the crowds.
You can certainly see it in the eager anticipation spread across the faces of high school athletes who have been sweating it out on the practice field, gearing up for that first kickoff.
In Sampson County, football remains a really big deal, a family affair that brings moms and dads, sisters and brothers, nieces and nephews, along with the extended group of high school friends — even if your high school days were long, long ago — together to watch the game, root on the teams and reminisce about every game since the beginning of time.
You can almost hear Robert Hill’s laugh as he shares a story of a Dark Horse touchdown or see the smile that always spread across Nathan Gay’s face as talk turned to the pigskin and the now annual jamboree that signals the start to this magical time of year in our wonderful county.
And whether it’s the Clinton Dark Horses or the Union Spartans; the Lakewood Leopards, the Midway Raiders, the Hobbton Wildcats or the Harrells Christian Crusaders, bleachers will be full and excitement will run high as each team gets their season off the ground this season.
It all starts this Friday for city and county public school teams who will come together for the Sampson County Football Jamboree, an event that ushers in the start of the season and brings football fever to a high pitch.
The Jamboree is yet another athletic event that got its roots in the heart and mind of Gay and Hill, both renowned for their love of high school sports and their determination to always see to it that high school athletes are given a chance to shine.
While there won’t be an official score as the young men hit the gridiron at Clinton High School’s Dark Horse Stadium, many will be tallying up the tackles, the punts, the passes and, of course, the touchdowns, figuring their team a winner even though there won’t actually be one announced in the series of scrimmages that will take place.
It’s a teaching experience with an audience, the first opportunity for many of the young men to suit up and use the athletic prowess they’ve been honing for the last few weeks. For the fans, it will be one of their first real glimpses at what their favorite team will have to offer this season.
And, of course, for the sideline quarterbacks, it will be an opportunity for them to weed through what works and what doesn’t so they, in turn, can offer their two-cents worth to the coaches before the real games start. Such is the magic of great communities like ours which support our teams and take ownership in what our young people do.
Everyone will have a great time at the jamboree. They always do. It’s the prelude to the season, the welcome mat for a time in many Sampsonians’ lives when all else will take a back seat to Friday nights.
So grab the family, come to Dark Horse Stadium tonight, buy a snack to support the teams and enjoy the evening. The scrimmages kick off at 7 p.m., with much fun to be had by all.
The Jamboree is part of the spirit of the game, an opening of a season of good times that brighten this county, putting a little bounce back into the steps of many who’ve grown tired of the oppressive heat and the lull of summer.
Football season is indeed upon us now. The pigskin’s out of the barn. Rally behind your team, support them every chance you get and let the kickoff get under way. Sampson County is ready.