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Game of the week: Chapin versus Mid-Carolina in the Battle for the Bell

Chapin, SC (Paul Kirby) – The atmosphere was electric and the stadium was packed as the Chapin High School Eagles took on their arch rivals, the Mid-Carolina Rebels, Friday night in Chapin. Up for grabs were bragging rights and the coveted bell. Winning the bell is a tradition that sends the ornate brass bell to whichever school wins the rivalry game for the next 12 months. The following year, the defeated team can hoefully win it back for their honor, and their school, where it will stay for that year.

The atmosphere at Chapin on any football Friday is always magnificent. The facilities are first class, and it’s closer to a small college game atmosphere than a high school’s. There’s tailgating in the parking lot, the Chapin blue and white permeates everything, and everyone, and the Eagle Club does a tremendous job of supporting the school’s athletics from the time the students begin spring practice until the end of the seasons.

On Friday night, the student section on the home side was packed by a raucous crowd, all wearing beach or water themed dress. They were led by two hilarious student cut-ups that kept them on their feet and helped to turn up the students' volume of support for their team that at times rivaled the noise of Williams Brice or Death Valley in the fall. These two were assisted by the cheerleaders or vice-versa, honestly I'm not sure which. It was fun for the students and a true sign of support for the hard work the Eagles and their student athletes who had put in a great deal of work on the gridiron over the summer.

Let’s not forget that the Mid-Carolina side was full to capacity, too. Their students' section did an admirable job of trying to cheer their team on, but were simply outnumbered by the kids in blue and white on the opposite side of the field.

As the game started, Chapin received the ball and the offense went to work. Almost immediately, the rivalry jitters showed when the Eagles' offense coughed up the ball on the third play of the first possession, and the Rebels recovered. The Eagles defense rectified that situation as they held MC’s offense to a three and out, forcing a punt.

As the quarter progressed, both defenses did a great job of showing their might, holding the opposing offense to three and outs, and rarely moving the chains far. Once again, a trunover ocurred as a Rebel defender picked off a pass from the Eagles' sophomore quarterback, Roger Pedroni,to senior wide receiver Xavier Gordan for a turnover. That deflated the Eagles' egos a bit, but only for a moment.

Shortly thereafter, Mid-Carolina moved the ball on several great plays. Their multi-talented QB Cade Roof got the ball moving down the field with his passing and scrambling skills. He eventually put the Rebels in scoring position on a QB keeper after their coaching staff decided to go for it on fourth down instead of attempting a 36-yard field goal. Roof crossed the markers to get the first down and keep the drive alive. With 4:36 left in the first quarter, the Rebels B.J. Tobe put them on the board with a scrambling run that earned them 6. The point after kick was good, putting MC up 7-0 over the Eagles.

As the first half continued, the Eagles shook off the jitters and came alive with an offense that seemed to rise and take command of the field. They scored on a pass from QB Larob Gordon to Case Barber. Barber had switched from QB to receiver at some point,showing his diversity. After the catch, Barber charged down the sideline into the end zone, putting the Eagles on the board. The PAT was good, and that tied the score at 7-7. On that play, a flag was thrown against the Eagles for unsportsmanlike conduct, but that penalty was assessed on the first play after the kickoff, saving the Eagle’s first TD.

At that point in the game, the Eagles took over the nest and never looked back. Although the Rebels were talented, well-conditioned, physical, and well coached, the Eagles had their hearts and minds set on a win. With a little more than 4 minutes left in the second quarter, the Eagle’s Larob Gordan scored again. The kick for the PAT was no good, and the Eagles led the Rebels 13-7.

Chapin wasn’t done in the first half. With 1:45 left on the clock, the Eagles' quarterback fired a long pass that connected with his receiver, and after a conversion for two more points, the Eagles led 21-7 going into halftime.

In the second half, the Rebels' defense played valiantly, but simply couldn’t outplay the boys in blue. There were a lot of three and outs that forced both team’s punters to boot the ball toward their opponents. Even though both kickers had very different styles, each was usually effective.

As the game progressed, it was clear that the Eagles were outplaying the Rebels who could only watch as Chapin drove away, leaving Mid-Carolina choking on their dust. The Rebels did score again right at the end of the game, playing against some of Chapin’s younger, smaller, and less experienced players. That brought the game to an end with the Eagles defeating the Rebels by a score of 28-14.

Both of these teams were in great condition, well prepared, and it showed. No one should be hanging their heads Saturday morning, because each side fought a valiant fight. In the end, the Eagles just gelled when they should have and captured the rights to the bell for the next 12 months.

The effects of the strength and conditioning program under Chapin’s Head Coach Gentry were obvious. His kids were big, models of strength and stamina, and had the power and skills to make the big plays.

On both sides of the ball, the Chapin linemen did their jobs well. The big guys for the most part offered great protection to the several talented playmakers that the Eagles have in their arsenal. Again, the Eagles are fit, well coached, and ready to take on their next opponents in the upcoming weeks.

The people of Chapin were both great hosts, orderly, and welcoming of their rivals from the north. Their facilities are first rate and their fans, students, cheerleaders, and band are a model of professionalism. This goes to the leadership of the school’s Principal Dr. Akil Ross, who’s well known for his innovative and effective leadership. The Eagles could write a book on how to support their athletes, their school, and put on a great show, and a good time in the process.

The Eagles look to have a great season ahead this year. With hard work, continued development of their players who can excel at multiple positions, and a few prayers and a little luck for good health, they could easily be displaying a championship trophy beside their bell in 2017.

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