CATAWISSA — It’s official. The game everyone has been talking about has come to fruition.
Southern Columbia will play Hammond High School in Columbia, S.C., on Sunday, Aug. 25 at 2 p.m.
The game, which was officially announced on Wednesday via a press release by ESPN, will be featured on ESPN2 as part of the network’s 10th annual High School Football Kickoff.
The marquee matchup will give national exposure to three ESPN top 300 recruits, including the nation’s top wide receiver in Southern Columbia’s Julian Fleming (No. 4) and Hammond’s defensive end Jordan Burch (No. 6) and offensive guard Alex Huntley (No. 221).
Despite the coal region producing a plethora of hard-nosed and extremely talented teams in the past — think of the Tiger teams with Henry Hynoski at running back, strings of state title runs by Mount Carmel at the turn of the millennium and Shamokin’s Eastern Conference championship team in 1975 — this will be the first time a local team will be nationally broadcast on live television.
Likewise, the area has never seen a team receive as much press and hype as the Tigers already have. After Fleming’s commitment to Ohio State, Gaige Garcia’s announcement to wrestle and play football at Michigan and Cal Haladay’s decision to join Michigan State in 2020, three rising seniors for Southern Columbia have already committed to the Big Ten.
Other players, like Max Tillett and Preston Zachman, who have already visited several major programs, will continue to receive looks and the number of Division I commitments will likely rise as the team’s exposure does.
It’s hard to compare current teams with those of the past, but one realistic comparison may be the 1988 Dallas Carter High School team, the feared scarlet red team loaded with Division I talent that won the Texas state championship and was painted as the villain in the movie “Friday Night Lights.”
Nevertheless, the Tigers will have a chance to prove themselves on Aug. 25.
Both teams are coming off undefeated state championship seasons and are riding double-digit win streaks. Southern has not lost a regular season contest since its 2011 fall to Mount Carmel — giving the Tigers a regular season win streak of 71 games. For Hammond, the Skyhawks have won their last 25 games and have not suffered a defeat since 2016.
But, after Week 1, one of those streaks will be broken.
Southern Columbia was originally scheduled to play Bloomsburg Area High School for their first game; however, the Panthers will challenge Neumann-Goretti at home on Aug. 23 instead.
Also, Mount Carmel agreed to push back the Week 2 matchup with Southern Columbia to Saturday, Aug. 31 in Catawissa at Jim Roth Field.