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The Sumter High School football team hopes it will be getting in practice for the 5A state playoffs when it loads the bus on Friday for a long road trip to face Bluffton.
"This is a big difference than what we normally do," said Gamecocks head coach Mark Barnes, whose team will take a 4-0 record to face the school near Hilton Head. "We have to get on the bus, pack up our uniforms and pads, make sure that nobody forgets anything. We've got to learn how to handle the situation.
"I think this can be beneficial to us, because this is a kind of trip you normally don't make until the playoffs."
Should SHS finish first or second in Region IV, it will be competing in the upper state portion of the 5A playoff bracket. It would host a first-round game in either position and would host a second-round game if it wins as a No. 1 seed.
A long trip to the Upstate could be in Sumter's future if it advances in either position.
The Gamecocks will leave at 2:40 p.m. on Friday on what Barnes said would be a 2-hour, 45-minute, bus ride. The players will be fed when they get on the bus and when they arrive at the stadium.
Since committing eight turnovers and still coming away with a 28-21 road victory to start the season, SHS has been on a roll. It defeated Crestwood 63-2, Lakewood 61-0 and Northwestern 40-0.
Barnes thinks his squad took another step forward with the home win over Northwestern last Friday.
"I told our players all week that we were facing a good football program (in Northwestern)," Barnes said. "I told them we needed to put our best foot forward, and I think we did. We made a really good team look below average."
The Gamecocks limited Northwestern to just four first downs and 86 yards of total offense while intercepting five passes. On the offensive side, Sumter had 385 yards of total offense, 198 rushing and 187 passing on the way to 22 first downs.
"We got turnovers; I don't think I've ever had a game where we had five interceptions," Barnes said. "We did a great job defensively. Offensively, we were explosive again. I don't think we could have been any better."
Bluffton is a 4A school that comes into the contest with a 1-3 record. The Bobcats own a 47-14 win over Hanahan. Their losses were to Screven County from Sylvania, Georgia, 44-41, to May River 54-14 and to Hartsville 56-21.
"I don't think we've played a really good offensive team yet," Barnes said. "I think they will be the best offensive team that we've faced so far."
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