Polk’s 2008 jamboree may be biggest yet

Published 4:10 pm Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The Classic, the brainchild of Polk County head football coach Bruce Ollis, is in its fourth year and is becoming one of the biggest high school football preseason events in the southeast.

In it&squo;s first year, the Showcase drew approximately 7,000 people or more.

&dquo;To get it off the ground, I knew I needed to get a marquee matchup,&dquo; Ollis said.

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But he didn&squo;t just go out and get a marquee matchup. He got the best two football teams in North and South Carolina.

In the first year, Byrnes (S.C.) played Independence (N.C.).

Since then, the Classic has taken off. The jamboree continues to bring in talented football teams from North and South Carolina like Crest, Shelby and Gaffney. Eventually, Ollis may invite teams from Georgia, like Valdosta, to play.

But this year could be the biggest event yet.

The field is loaded and Polk County fans will truly get to see a matchup it&squo;d never see outside of a jamboree situation.

This year, the Wolverines will be play 4A Spartanburg High School.

And that&squo;s what makes the Classic so special, Ollis said.

&dquo;It&squo;s great for the fans,&dquo; he said. &dquo;They get to see games they wouldn&squo;t normally get to see.&dquo;

But it&squo;s not just about the fans either, Ollis said.

&dquo;It gives teams the chance to make some money and play in front of a huge, playoff-type crowd.&dquo;

In his coaching career, Ollis has coached in Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina. He&squo;s made plenty of connections along the way.

For instance, he had a professional connection to the Independence coach and a personal connection to the Byrnes coach.

That really came into play this season. Ollis and new Spartanburg coach Freddie Brown had been friends. Before this season, Brown was the head coach at Woodruff High School. Ollis and the Wolverines have been playing in his jamboree for the past few seasons.

Brown asked Ollis what it would take for him to get into the Classic. Ollis, jokingly, told him that if he got the Spartanburg Vikings&squo; coaching job that he&squo;d secure a spot.

And now he is the Vikings&squo; head coach and the Wolverines and Vikings will lock horns on Friday night. Other matchups at this year&squo;s Classic will be Byrnes vs. Shelby and Crest vs. Gaffney.

The name of the event itself was a brainstorm between Ollis and Polk County athletic director Jeff Wilson.

Wilson came up with the &dquo;Border Showcase&dquo; and Ollis added &dquo;Classic.&dquo; Then the idea came up to use Roman Numerals like the Super Bowl.

&bsp;And this game has become something special to Ollis.

&dquo;We came up with the idea and we think it&squo;s a big deal,&dquo; Ollis said. &dquo;It&squo;s a source of pride.&dquo;