It’s time for some tailgating fun at Long Bell Stadium as the Hinesville Hurricanes kick off their summer semipro football season at 7 p.m. tonight when they host the Tri-County Panthers.
The Hurricanes originally were scheduled to host the Darlington Warriors, but a last-minute conflict led to a swap in teams to ensure the season could begin promptly.
As always, the Hurricanes’ first home game of the season is dedicated to the late Mary Jo Sharp, the wife of coach James Sharp who is known as the team’s biggest fan. She died last year after a long illness but the love and devotion she showed the players is something they say they’ll never forget.
Last season, the Hurricanes went 13-1 en route to their first Southeastern American Football League championship since the team started in 1999.
The Hurricanes were 3-0 against the Panthers last season, beating them, 60-0, in the semifinals to get to the title game. But Sharp said he will not take the Panthers lightly.
“They are in a rebuilding phase much like we are,” he said. “They lost some players and their quarterback from last year. I don’t think he is playing this season. We lost some players, too, but we picked up some new ones as well.”
The Hurricanes lost most of their offensive line but picked up a few new players and still have standout running backs Joseph Matavao and Kendrick Badger in the backfield.
Frank Troupe is back under center and standout performers Tracey Lewis, Charles Crossley and James Sharp III return as well. The coach said his team is anxious to get the season started and his players are ready to win another championship ring.
“We are excited,” Sharp said. “(The players) told me last year that the only thing we didn’t do last year was go 14-0. And that is what they want to do this season.”
General admission for tonight’s game is $5, and children 12 and younger are free. Concessions will be sold, and raffle tickets will be available for purchase for prizes awarded during halftime.
“We collect prizes from local vendors here in Hinesville and we give them away at halftime with raffle drawings,” Sharp said.