Palmetto High School opened in 1953, serving the communities of Williamston, Pelzer, West Pelzer, Cheddar and White Plains. Even serving that many neighborhoods, the school never rose above the AAA level in football. The decline of the textile industry leaves the school with the population for a large AA school.
Down the road, Wren High School opened later in the decade, serving the Powdersville area. With mostly dirt roads and farmers in the area, the school opened as a single A school. The area grew, as farms were replaced by housing developments. Wren was a AA school within a decade, and by the end of the 1970s, the Hurricanes competed on the AAA level.
Coach Jack King led the Hurricanes to titles in the tough Western AAA, defeating Pickens when the Blue Flame were at their highest point.
Eventually Wren moved up to the AAAA level. But the school’s glory years in football seemed to have passed. Wren struggled. In fact, fans began to joke that Wren played rival Easley each year just to see who would finish last in Region 1-AAAA.
Some reasoned that the new families in the area liked “trendier” sports such as soccer, so football success was a thing of the past.
Jeff Tate didn’t buy that.
The Wren graduate had spent some time at the school as the baseball coach. Eventually, he ended up as an assistant coach at Byrnes High School, where the Rebels ran a program superior to most small colleges.
Tate realized that winning and losing was nobody’s exclusive property, and that if he could develop a program that would give Wren a decent chance of winning, the players would buy into it much like Jack King’s teams did in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
In Tate’s first season two years ago, the Hurricanes were competitive.
Last year, they were conference champions for the first time at the AAAA level. The Hurricanes blew past Region 1-AAAA competition, only to lose in the first round of the state playoffs in a wild game against James Island, 56-55.
Now the Hurricanes are back, wanting more.
Leading the offense will be third-year starter Austin McCaskill, who threw for 3,300 yards and 40 touchdowns last season.
The pass opens up the running game, and Levi Burton is the beneficiary of that.
Clemson commitment Shaq Lawson anchors the line.
The defense was the closest Wren came to a weakness last season, but the unit should be strong with lineman Zack Smith leading the way.
Palmetto will be returning to the Skyline AA conference this season after taking bumps in the Appalachian AA conference. The Mustangs hope to compete with Pendleton and Chesnee for the conference title.
Hunter Green, the quarterback, enters his third season as a starter.
The offensive line will be anchored by 6-5, 275 pound lineman Landon Martin.
While Wren uses a wide-open, pass-happy offense, Palmetto will likely try to run-oriented, double wing set-up.
The two offenses will seem like reverse images of each other, as Wren uses the pass to set up its running plays, while Palmetto would rather run first to open up the passing game.
Game time is 7:30 p.m. at Palmetto.