Excitement for the Silver Bluff Bulldogs state championship game doesn't end with the football players and coaches. Anticipation for Friday's game against the Batesburg-Leesville Panthers has created a lot of enthusiasm throughout the city of Jackson.

Silver Bluff Principal Collette Johnson said the players and coaches will enjoy a special lunch on Thursday. On Friday, the community will meet on Bulldog Alley – the street in the front of the school – at 1 p.m. to celebrate the achievement before the team heads to Benedict College in Columbia for the championship game.

“We're extremely proud of our team, and it's been a long time coming since back in 2001,” Johnson said. “We're also happy for Coach Lown, who got his 200th win last week.”

Johnson said the vibe around the school and community is amazing. Students, parents, teachers and other community members have all been stopping by to purchase their tickets for the big game on Friday.

“Everyone is really excited, and we're showing that we're in full support of our team,” Johnson added. “We're all ready for Friday, and we know our guys will work hard to bring a championship back to our school.”

Aiken County School Superintendent Beth Everitt said the school's excitement started when Silver Bluff scored an A grade on its state report card. Everitt feels the news – combined with a trip to the state championship – shows a balance of strong academics and athletics for Silver Bluff.

“The vibe started several weeks ago when we scored high on our state report card so we're celebrating our academic successes, and the championship game was huge for us as well,” Everitt said. “Our school is riding on a high, and the game makes it even better.”

In addition to educational leaders, other groups have also expressed their enthusiasm.

Silver Bluff Booster Club President Gurney Wiggins has been a part of four championships at Silver Bluff. While he hinted at the possibility of a fifth, he made sure to put emphasis on the team and school.

“We're extremely proud of the young men,” Wiggins said. “They've been a hardworking group, and they're more like a family than anything else. They've made their school so proud with how they've carried themselves on the field and off the field.”

Silver Bluff last played the Panthers 12 years ago in the 2001 Class AA championship. The Bulldogs bested the Panthers in a 21-20 nail-biter. The two will square off again on Friday at Benedict College located at 1600 Harden St. in Columbia. Game time is scheduled for 5:30 p.m.

Derrek Asberry is a beat reporter with the Aiken Standard. He joined the paper in June. He is originally from Vidalia, Ga., and a graduate of Georgia Southern University. Follow him on Twitter @ DerrekAsberry.