Sumter High School didn't play a football game last Friday because of an off week. The Gamecocks spent time working on themselves last week.
They do play a game this week, traveling to War Memorial Stadium in Florence to take on South Florence at 7:30 p.m. It is not only the Region VI-5A opener for both teams, but it is homecoming for the Bruins.
"One of the good things about having a bye week is you're not preparing for an opponent," said SHS head coach Mark Barnes, whose team is 4-1 overall and ranked No. 7 among 5A schools in the S.C. Prep Media Football Poll. "We only practiced two days and we did a lot of best-on-best, 7-on-7, 1-on-1. We worked really hard on the things that we need to improve upon."
The Gamecocks have definitely been prepping for SF, which is 1-4 this week though. South picked up its first win last week, beating 4A Darlington 28-27. Barnes pointed out something very significant about the game.
"That was the first game where they had their tailback back and where they seem to be settled at quarterback," Barnes said. "They've played four different quarterbacks, but it looks like they're going with the young guy."
The running back is Tony McFadden, who ran for 169 yards and scored all four of the Bruins' TDs on 27 carries against the Falcons. The "young guy" is freshman Shalique Parks, who completed 11 of 27 passes for 170 yards. He made his debut the week before in South Florence's 20-0 loss to 3A Manning.
Barnes has not-so-fond memories of McFadden from SHS' 48-41 victory last season in Sumter. He rushed for 244 yards and three scores.
"This is the second phase of our season," Barnes said of opening region play. "We've won it the last two years (going undefeated both times), and we want to do it again.
"One thing our guys are good at is not looking ahead and just preparing for the next game. They normally give us a difficult time, and it's a different environment over there that we have to be ready for."
In Sumter's last game, it defeated 4A Lakewood 49-21. The Gamecocks rushed for 345 yards, but had two passes intercepted and returned for touchdowns.
"The passing game is one thing that we worked on in the off week," Barnes said. "We just worked on everything because it's something we want to get better at."
Quarterback Zykiem Jackson has completed 40 of 82 passes for 572 yards and four TDs while tossing four picks. He lead in rushing with 555 yards and one score on 72 carries.
Jalen Rouse leads SHS in receiving with 20 catches for 255 yards and one score.
The Gamecocks have three running backs getting carries. Junior Jonathan Henry has rushed for 352 yards and four TDs on 58 carries. Senior Da'Jon Butts had 212 yards on 34 carries, but has 10 TDs, getting a lot of his work around the goal line.
Sophomore Justice Wells has rushed for 215 yards and two touchdowns on 30 carries.