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RALEIGH ROAD TRIP

STANHOPE -- As the crow flies, Southern Nash High School is located not far away from Wake County.

But SNHS veteran football coach Brian Foster, who has been affiliated with the school for nearly a quarter-century, can't remember exactly when the Firebirds competed in Wake County -- either in jamboree or regular season fashion.

Southern Nash used to play an annual grudge match against East Wake -- with plenty of spirited games -- but that rivalry is currently on hold.

But the Firebirds wil be in action twice in Wake County this season, beginning with an appearance Saturday at the highschoolOT jamboree at Cardinal Gibbons High School in West Raleigh.

Southern Nash will tangle with an acclaimed Lee County club at 3:30 p.m. at the Cardinal Gibbons Stadium, which is located on Edwards Mill Road adjacent to PNC Arena.

Tickets for the event will be available at the gate.

The complete schedule is as follows:

• 2 p.m. -- Southern Durham vs. Elizabeth City Northeastern
• 3:30 p.m. -- Lee County vs. Southern Nash
• 5 p.m. -- Heritage vs. Wilmington New Hanover
• 6:30 p.m. -- Millbrook vs. Cape Fear
• 8 p.m. -- Cardinal Gibbons vs. Clayton

In Foster's estimation, there are pros and cons to taking part in the prestigious event, as opposed to being in a jamboree against several different opponents.

"I would be nice to scrimmage in a jamboree setting, but it can be hard to find one,'' Foster said. "We have been asked to be in the OT a few times, but we (declined). We feel like this will be a good experience for our team.''

Southern Nash returns five starters on both sides of the ball from a club that went undefeated in the 2016 regular season while winning the Big East Conference Championship.

Even though the Firebirds have enjoyed a myriad of successes in recent campaigns, Foster still thinks the sense of urgency is there among his group -- and complacency certainly isn't an issue.

"I'm really happy with the way the first week of practice has gone,'' Foster said. "Our kids know the caliber of opponent we play, and I think that helps them stay hungry. They know how hard it is to win. They know it isn't easy because of the level of competition we play against.''

Coaching turnover is rare in Stanhope, but there is one change this fall as former Firebird great Josh Sessoms, who just finished his gridiron and academic career at North Carolina State University, will be joining the Firebirds' staff as an assistant coach.

"When I first became the head coach (in the late 1990s), one of my goals was to have my staff (of assistants) to be former players. I feel like we have been able to accomplish that. It's a huge blessing to have those guys around.''

After Saturday's event, it won't take long before the Firebirds return to Wake County once again.

On August 18, the Firebirds will open their regular season schedule against Green Hope High School.

Southern is also hosting defending state champion Wake Forest this fall, so the Firebirds will return the series favor with a trip to Wake County next year.

Pictured (Above): TIME FOR TALKING. A Southern Nash player listens to instruction from assistant coach Kwamaine Battle (center) and head coach Brian Foster (right) during a recent Firebirds' football practice session in Stanhope. (Photos Submitted by Anthony Barham)


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