One of the biggest games of The T&D Region high school football season takes place Friday in Barnwell when two heavyweights meet in a showdown to decide Region 5-2A supremacy.
Bamberg-Ehrhardt (7-1 overall, 3-0 in region) comes into Friday’s contest at unbeaten Barnwell following a 27-21 overtime win over Batesburg-Leesville last Friday. It was a pleasing win, considering B-L was the only team to get wins against B-E a season ago, taking one during the regular season and a second in playoffs.
Before last week's game, Red Raiders head coach Kevin "Butch" Crosby talked to his team about what legacy they want to leave at Bamberg-Ehrhardt.
"You're playing for your legacy," he recalls telling them. "I told them to set the tradition of winning for the group of guys that will come after them."
Barnwell (8-0, 3-0), meanwhile, enters this contest coming off a 39-0 win over Allendale-Fairfax last Friday. The Warhorses have remained unbeaten this season, including edging out a 44-41 win at Batesburg-Leesville.
B-E and Barnwell are tied for the region lead. Silver Bluff, which has lost to B-E, is 2-1, followed by Batesburg-Leesville at 1-2. Allendale-Fairfax and Calhoun County are 0-3 in region play.
Barnwell lost to Bamberg-Ehrhardt in Bamberg last season, 20-13. B-E then claimed the region title in 2016, despite a regular-season loss to Batesburg-Leesville.
Even so, Crosby is telling his players that this is just another game for his veteran team. However, it is one they should show up prepared to give tremendous effort to win.
"It's only a big game because it's next up on the schedule; this is no bigger than other games on our schedule," Crosby said. "Barnwell will be Barnwell, I don’t expect anything different from them."
For the fans though, Crosby realizes this matchup means a bit more.
"This is a rivalry amongst teams and amongst communities," he said.
After a 12-0 homecoming loss to Scott's Branch late in non-region play, Crosby felt that his team really began to focus on the season and started playing for each other. The Red Raiders have since won four straight games, including three in region play.
"The homecoming loss got everyone focused; they started to gel together and trust each other," Crosby said. " We didn’t do anything spectacular, we just got focused and learned from losing.
"You have to play every week in this region, it forces you to stay on your toes."
The Red Raiders have leaned heavily on the 23 seniors who help make up their veteran team this season. Some of those players have been grinding to improve, while also waiting to be the next man up for several seasons.
"We have a great group of seniors; they stayed together and played together since middle school," Crosby said.
In the 27-21 overtime win last week, the Red Raiders were very successful on the ground, rushing for 192 yards of their 200 total yards of offense. B-E also only turned the ball over once in the win.
Crosby is not afraid to take a risk and have his team go for it on fourth down either, as the Red Raiders went a perfect two for two on fourth down conversions at Batesburg-Leesville.