Friday night's a big one at South Aiken for a variety of reasons.
It's the season opener, for one. There's a 15-game home winning streak on the line. There's finally a chance to play against someone else after being allowed only one scrimmage. There's the first opportunity to silence the doubters after a lot of yards, tackles and points graduated.
And then there's the little fact that the opponent is Greenwood, one of the state's all-time great programs that also just happens to be led by former T-Breds head coach Dan Pippin. And it's the Aiken Standard Game of the Week.
All in all, that can be quite overwhelming for a young team. So that's been a major point of emphasis for head coach Chris Hamilton leading up to this one.
"I mean, it's Greenwood, you know? It's tradition," he said. "They've won a bunch of state titles, and they've got a tradition of just being a football town where the kids play really hard and they love the game. The town supports them, and they back them. It's Greenwood. That's one of those things where we've got to make sure we don't get big-eyed because Greenwood is coming to town."
That's been the talk for a couple of weeks now – not getting too caught up in the Greenwood mystique and instead focusing on getting ready to play.
The T-Breds are young in a variety of places, and it's going to take time for everything to run smoothly. They're strong on the offensive and defensive lines, though, and that can be a way for them to control the game and get everyone on track.
Greenwood has youth in some key spots, too, and has to cope with losing its star quarterback, running back and wide receiver all in one class. Offensively, the Eagles will look like a familiar Pippin unit – spread principles with lots of flexibility. They're young up front, but they have a couple options at quarterback that can do different things.
The defensive line is strong and favors a three-man front instead of the four-man alignment Hamilton is used to seeing from Pippin teams.
This will be the first opportunity for Hamilton as a head coach to face Pippin, the former T-Breds leader who in 2000 ended South Aiken's 29-game losing streak in his first game as head coach. They've scrimmaged against one another before, but never anything that counted.
"Coach Pippin's a great coach. He did a lot of great things at South Aiken, and he did a lot of good things at North Augusta," Hamilton said. "He's one of those names around here that people know and remember. I'm excited that I get the opportunity to coach against him. ... Just kind of looking forward to welcoming him back to South Aiken."
The home winning streak is a point of pride for Hamilton and the T-Breds, who last lost at home on Oct. 30, 2015. Hamilton called that defeat a distant memory, and he'd like to keep it there.
The youth is undeniable at South Aiken, which lost 26 seniors from last year's team. The T-Breds aren't using that as an excuse, though, and they're prepared to work their way through it.
"We're going to have to learn on the go a little bit here, learn on the run. Hopefully we'll minimize the mistakes – they're gonna happen," Hamilton said. "It's the first game. You're gonna have them regardless, if you played five scrimmages before this. ... Hopefully our guys don't get big-eyed with the lights and stuff, especially the younger ones, and just go play ball. If we do that, I think we'll be OK."