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March 5, 2012

Palmetto State Showdown getting better with age

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Dallas Jackson is the Senior Analyst for RivalsHigh. Email him your question, comment or story ideas to DallasJ@Yahoo-Inc.com and follow him on Twitter.

The Palmetto State Showdown is set for the summer with a full field of 20 team head to Duncan, S.C. One will get even more.

For the first time in the five-year history of the event, the winner will receive an automatic berth to the National Select 7-on-7 field in Hoover, Ala.

The June 15-16 passing tournament will take place in the shadow of Byrnes High School. It is the second year in a row that the event will take place in June to accommodate Georgia teams.

Event director Tony McAbee says that each year it is a little easier to fill the field.

"I am sure the Byrnes reputation plays a big factor (in finding participants)," he said. "I think the level of competition that a coach sees in the tournament keeps them coming back."

Of the 20 teams, 13 are making a return trip from last season and nearly all of the teams have participated at least once in the four previous years.

In a relatively short period of time The Palmetto State Showdown has grown into one of the best passing tournaments in the country with the support of the U.S. National Guard and many other local sponsors.

"We have really established some great relationships with the coaches and I think they are appreciative of the things we do for both them and the players," McAbee said.

McAbee said that despite having good relationships - and familiarity - with all of the coaches, he still is excited for certain teams to come to town.

"I look forward to seeing Valdosta [(Ga.) High]," he said. "It has an incredible high school history."

And he has personal favorites as well.

"We look forward to seeing Coach (Bill) Cherpak from [Jefferson Hills (Pa.)] Thomas Jefferson," McAbee said. "They are always a tough out in 7-on-7s."

The event even has a more regional feel this season as it will include only eight teams from South Carolina, the fewest in the events history.

The expansion in the region and interest in advancing to the National Select likely means the trend of fewer South Carolina schools will continue into the future.

"We may pare down to fewer in the future," McAbee said.

While the local teams may pare down, the exposure of this event will be expanding.

Here is a look at the teams in the event this year:

2012 Palmetto State Showdown Participants
Brunswick (Ga.) High - 2011 Palmetto State Showdown Champion
It was a late addition to the field in 2011 - then came to town and won the event. It returns this season to defend its title. Brunswick was unable to carry its momentum into the regular season, finishing 2011 with a losing record.
Davidson (N.C.) Davidson Day - 2011 State Champion
Davidson Day finished its 2011 season with an 11-1 record and a private school state championship in North Carolina. Class of 2014 quarterback Will Grier threw for 3,785 yards and 49 touchdowns, so there will be plenty of folks looking at him in this competition.
Dover (Del.) High
Dover came to the tournament last season and left without a win - although it was in multiple games and likely should have taken home a few victories. This season it looks to redeem itself as it now knows what to expect. Tight end Jordan Robinson will be a solid target for the team this year.
Duncan (S.C.) Byrnes Varsity - 2011 State Champion
The host school always has high expectations and this year is no different. The team was very young last year but was still able to take home a state title. Trey Barron and Akia Booker will be senior receivers and junior quarterback Shuler Bentley is now a seasoned quarterback.
Duncan (S.C.) Byrnes JV
The B-Team has showed pretty well in recent years at the event and has taken the Varsity to the wire a few times as well. The junior varsity squad likely will finish toward the bottom of the tournament, but it will give a lot of teams a run for their money.
Durham (N.C.) Hillside
Coach Antonio King has this program on the rise in state and nationally and should be formidable in the tournament. The Hornets return plenty of talented players with running back Khris Francis and defensive back Korrin Wiggins already committed to North Carolina.
Durham (N.C.) Southern
The Spartans were a team that folks wanted to talk about last year at the tournament as they were wearing their Superman logoed apparel. The play on the field was not up to expectations as the team finished with a 7-4 record. It will be curious to see how the team reloads after losing considerable talent.
Evans (Ga.) Lakeside
Lakeside was a participant during the first two years of the event but has taken the last two off. Coach Jarrett Troxler is bringing the team back to South Carolina coming off of a 5-5 season. The team won the games it should have last year and lost likewise. It was competitive in the first-round playoff loss to Warner Robins (Ga.) High.
Greenville (S.C.) High
Greenville has been involved in this event in the past and has been competitive, so this year figures to be the same. The regular-season results were not what the team wanted in 2011 with a couple of blowout losses. This will be a good chance to improve the secondary.
Jefferson Hills (Pa.) Thomas Jefferson
The Jaguars are regulars at this event and play very tough despite being a run-first team in the regular season. This team will still run play-action and limited receiver routes in summer circuit but uses this trip to get the defense used to seeing speedy receivers and covering in space.
Kings Mountain (N.C.) High
Like Thomas Jefferson, this is a run-based team that uses this event for its defense improvement more than anything. The Mountaineers got a lot of love from participants for the old-school flat-black helmets it wears.
Louisville (Ga.) Jefferson County
It was looking as if Jefferson County was going to push to a finals appearance in the event last year with a strong playoff run, but it was not an all-Georgia final. The team had moderate success on the field last year with an 8-4 season and a playoff loss to Buford (Ga.) High.
Moncks Corner (S.C.) Berkeley
Berkeley struggled offensively last season with six games being held under 10 points and three times being shutout. The passing tournament could help with getting the offense in sync before a similar fate befalls the Stags.
Myrtle Beach (S.C.) High
This could be a tense matchup at the event as a mini-rivalry is brewing with Myrtle Beach and Byrnes; Myrtle Beach took a regular- season win from the Rebels in 2011. Defensive back Chocolate Wilson will have the best name at the event - he also has offers from Purdue and Ole Miss.
Oradell (N.J.) Bergen Catholic
There is a lot of expectations on this Bergen Catholic team this season with some talking about it being the year the Crusaders beat Don Bosco. Seeing the growth at the quarterback position likely will determine that outcome. Seeing receivers John Tsimis and Kyle Queiro against this field of defensive backs will be good.
Piedmont (S.C.) Wren
Wren won this event in 2010 and made the final in 2011 so overlooking the Hurricanes would be foolish entering this season's tournament. The team went 8-4 during the regular season and continues to make strides under Coach Jeff Tate.
Suwannee (Ga.) North Gwinnett
Head coach Bob Sphire is one of the better coaches in Georgia and certainly knows how to get the most out of his players. His spread offense is really aided by how aggressive he schedules during the summer season. This year's team has a strong offensive line for the regular season and will rely on Donnie Miles to make plays in the summer. He already has offers from Duke and Tennessee.
Union (S.C.) Union County
One of the last teams to fill out the field, Union County will be breaking in a new coach this season so there is reason for optimism. In the regular season last year, the defense gave up over 40 points six times so that will be a point of emphasis.
Valdosta (Ga.) High
The Wildcats will be starting the summer season early - and they will need it with the new Region alignment in Georgia. This is yet another staff with Byrnes ties to it with second-year coach Rance Gillespie being familiar with the program.
Virginia Beach (Va.) Ocean Lakes
Ocean Lakes is loaded with young talent and should be exciting to watch at the tournament. Senior quarterback Corwin Cutler is a prospect on the rise but the star of the show may well be Class of 2015 standout Jason Lewis. The 6-foot-2 safety/receiver will be among the young stars shining at the event.

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