Tigers to face Northwestern in 2012 Surf and Turf Kickoff Classic

Watch out, Beach Ball Classic.

There’s a new game in town, the Surf and Turf Kickoff Classic, looking to find a home on the Grand Strand sports scene.

The inaugural event will be held Aug. 25, 2012 at Doug Shaw Memorial Stadium with Myrtle Beach hosting Irmo and Conway  facing Northwestern in a high school football doubleheader that hopes to become a local staple like the Beach Ball.

The announcement of the annual event and future plans to make it a national draw was made Wednesday at Breakers Resort.

“This reminds of the day in 1981 when (Beach Ball founder) Dan D’Antoni told people about his plans to start a basketball tournament,” Myrtle Beach Mayor John Rhodes said. “Some people laughed at the time, but look at it now.”

The inaugural event for the proposed six-year contract of the Surf and Turf calls for only four teams from the Palmetto State, but 2013 already has earned a commitment from North Carolina powerhouse Richmond County to play in the showcase.

Promoters hope to make it a North Carolina vs. South Carolina format featuring as many as eight teams in 2013, but long-range goals target a total of eight North Carolina and South Carolina teams hosting teams from across the country.

“We want to build this into the top high school football festivals in the nation,” said event coordinator Mark Stafford.

“We want the country to be looking to Myrtle Beach as the place to start the high school football season every fall.” Stafford said he hopes to have a football kickoff festival before the game, featuring live beach music and other events.

The goal is more than a celebration to start the season, but also a drawing card for tourists at the end of the summer.

“When you bring in these football teams, you also bring in fans, families and boosters,” Stafford said. “Some of these  players have never set foot on this beach before. Maybe the go home and tell their families, ‘Let’s go to the beach.’ ”

The Surf and Turf is a continuaton of the city’s goal of increasing sports tourism. The football event should compliment not only the Beach Ball, but also the World Am, North-South All-Star Games and the Crescent Bank Basketball Classic.

“Things like this are the reason Sports Illustrated named Myrtle Beach the No. 1 sports destination in the state of  South Carolina,” Rhodes said. “These events aren’t competing with one another. Together they’re good for Myrtle Beach.”

Seahawks head coach Mickey Wilson said he is happy to be hosting such a prestigious event to start the season. After opening the past three seasons against national power Byrnes, this gives his team the same tough competition at home.

“It’s been really good for us to open the season against a quality opponent and this ensures us the chance to do that at home,” Wilson said. “To have great teams coming to our place to play is good for exposure for our football program.”

Although Conway won’t be playing a home game per se, it will get the chance to face a strong Class AAAA opponent at a nuetral site. The Tigers have often had trouble scheduling AAAA foes its size, which hurts them in the playoff race.

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