The American League defeated the National League during Saturday evening’s all-star game, 32 to 28, at Camden’s Zemp Stadium, capping the first-ever flag football season sponsored by the Jackson Teen Center (JTC), ALPHA Center and local businesses.
Two to three players from each of the league’s teams were chosen to play in the all-star game, a way to reward the players not only for their great plays from earlier in the season, but for their hard work in transforming themselves from 100 unruly individuals into 12 coherent teams.
“They were fighting with each other during the first games,” ALPHA Center Executive Director Paul Napper said before either of the games began. “I told them I was embarrassed. The quarterback apologized to me, the coach and the team. Now, they’re showing sportsmanship and team building. We really broke down some barriers by having them work together.”
That quarterback, Napper said, played on one of the all-star teams.
“We’re seeing a transformation,” he said.
The JTC is part of the Boys & Girls Club of the Midlands (BGCM). The Boys & Girls Club of the Grand Strand (BGCGS) visited Saturday, with 10 young men playing on a team during a Hall of Fame game before the all-star game. Interim BGCGS Executive Director Dione Buonto came along, becoming one of the more passionate spectators in Zemp’s bleachers.
“We have eight varsity and junior varsity members of the Myrtle Beach High School Seahawks here and two from Socastee,” Buonto said.
She, the players and others stayed at a B&B in the Ridgeway area while in Kershaw County for the weekend.
ALPHA Center Prevention Specialist Tina Grigg, her daughter, Hanna, and Hanna’s fellow Lugoff-Elgin High School cheerleader, Ainsley Puckett, helped out, especially as JTC cheerleaders went through some moves on the sidelines.
In the “Hall of Fame” game, the Generals defeated the Jackson Alumni, 27-12. Retired Maj. Gen. Julian Burns sponsored the Generals during the regular season. Their opponents in the Hall of Fame game included JTC and Myrtle Beach players sponsored by the BGCM in honor of alumni from Camden’s original Jackson School.
JTC Director Brian Mayes called the games, with Camden Mayor Tony Scully sitting nearby.
Between games, Mayes and Napper gave out team shirts and individual trophies to each player on the American and National all-star teams. In addition to the action on the field, spectators had ample opportunity to enjoy free food: hot dogs, three different kinds of pork barbecue, drinks and snacks.
The American League came out early, with a lot of back-and-forth scoring during the first half of the all-star game. There was little scoring during the second half until the American League came up with a touchdown and 2-point conversion around the 6:10 mark. A few plays later, an American League player ended up down on the field with what appeared to be an injury to his hand or wrist. Just like in any other game, spectators, teammates and opponents alike cheered him off the field.
At the end, the American League kept up its lead, coming up with the 32-28 finish, to earn the first-ever Kershaw County Flag Football League Championship trophy, with Napper handing it off to coach John Drakeford.
Fellow coaches Terry Smith and Tramaine Beethea said it was a wonderful experience to see the boys having fun this summer.
“They’ve been working all summer. Both teams have a lot of talent, and we’ve been trying to mentor them,” Smith said.
Saturday’s games were a chance to show parents that sending their sons and daughters to the JTC and participating in the flag football and cheerleading programs was worthwhile.
On Aug. 12, JTC kids got to show off some other skills during a talent show. Linda Sutton-Dutton, who had a grandson at the JTC and on the football field Saturday, said Mayes’ work with the children makes him “amazing.”
“Because he did what no one did or could do,” she said. “From sunup to sundown, his focus was only on making our children the best that they could be. I watched the talent show on Tuesday; every one of those children performed at their best. There was no heckling, pointing, downplaying, jealousy -- there was only grown-up children acting very professional, and all that was the no-nonsense hard, stern work of Mr. Brian Mayes.”
She said the staff trained students to be administrators, dancers to be teachers, which made everyone leaders.
“Brian developed his vision for the (JTC) into a reality,” Dutton-Sutton said.
Mayes announced at the end of the evening that the JTC is open during after school hours and encouraged parents to sign their teens up for its programs. The JTC is open from 1:30 to 6:30 p.m. each school day, allowing any students with early dismissal times to come to the center.
Mayes said JTC staff will focus on math, history and English; they’ll also help with homework.
“We’re not going to be checking agendas -- parents still have to do that -- but we will help with what homework the students say they have,” he said.
According to a schedule Mayes provided, from 3:30 p.m. on, the JTC will offer teens outdoor activities; “enrichment zones;” a “power hour;” membership in the center’s Keystone and GPA clubs, as well as two club choices (Alpha and Beta); teen talks; and music and fine arts.