Pigskin practice under way; 11 games you’ve gotta see

With high school, college and pro football teams opening preseason camps this week, it’s time for football fans to start getting ready for the season too.

Hard-core gridiron fanatics will try to catch them all, but football fans with a life may need to circle their calendars to keep from missing one of the big ones. Here are 11 games you don’t want to miss:

* Aug. 29-31: OK, can we count this three-day pigskin holiday as one? The kickoff for colleges and Derrick Law Firm Surf-and-Turf Classic for high schools makes it a good time to come down with the 72-hour flu.

South Carolina gets it started Thursday night with another installment of the Battle of the Carolinas. The Tar Heels and Gamecocks claim the name “Carolina” so what better way to settle it than on the field?

The theme carries over in the high school ranks with the second annual Surf-and-Turf. On Friday, Myrtle Beach High hosts Richmond County (NC). On Saturday, three more games between the Palmetto and Tar Heel states are cappped by Conway vs. New Hanover (NC).

On Saturday, Coastal Carolina opens against in-state rival SC State, then Clemson caps the three-day football fest against the Georgia Bulldogs. This rivalry is always a classic, and this year both teams have aspirations to play for a national championship.

* Sept. 7: South Carolina and Georgia kick off the SEC season between the hedges the following week, with the winner moving to the front of the line in the SEC East standings. Cocky vs. UGA is always a great mascot battle too.

* Oct. 8: Socastee High tries to show last season was no fluke by beating the rival Myrtle Beach Seahawks again, this time at home. Will the Braves have time to adjust to new head coach Doug Illing’s system to be ready for some angry Seahawks.

* Oct. 19: Clemson’s biggest obstacle to winning the ACC championship comes on this date against the Seminoles in Death Valley. If the Tigers can past this one, they have a good chance of running into the Chickens with an undefeated record.

* Nov. 3: The Carolina Panthers host the Atlanta Falcons, the team they must beat to make some noise in the NFC South. Carolina QB Cam Newton claims to be a Falcons fan, but maybe he will show his true black-and-blue colors in this one.

* Nov. 23: For the first time ever, it’s chicken-on-chicken violence when the gamecocks host the Chanticleers. This may not be a tough contest for South Carolina, but its a landmark meeting and a great opportunity for Coastal.

* Nov. 30: Clemson and South Carolina keep the Palmetto Bowl going. The stakes could be even higher in this year’s bragging-rights bowl, with both teams possibly heading to their respective conference title games. The state title is all SC fans care about.

Photo by Rancier Photography

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