After a solid showing in the annual Cherokee County football jamboree last week, Spring Garden opens regular-season action Friday at Appalachian. The two schools traded season-opening wins in 2008 – Spring Garden 21-6 – and 2009 – Appalachian 31-14 – but haven’t played in the past four years.

Spring Garden coach Jason Howard and his staff got a chance to see Appalachian in jamboree action against Cleveland Friday.

“They’re very similar to us,” Howard said prior to Tuesday’s practice. “They’re big, physical and like to run the football.”      

Howard expects the game to be a competitive one.

“I think it will probably be a pretty high-scoring game. I think it’s going to come down to who eliminates turnovers and who can get a couple of stops,” he said.

The Panthers played well in the jamboree on their home field in two quarters against North Sand Mountain and two quarters against Sand Rock. Spring Garden was one-and-one on the day. The Panthers led North Sand Mountain when Howard began substituting in the second quarter and blanked Sand Rock. An interception by freshman defensive back Jonah Smith deep in Spring Garden territory with about 10 seconds remaining preserved the shutout.   

“I thought we played okay. … We’ve got a little bit of depth this time. I had several that I didn’t even play,” Howard said.

Among those who didn’t dress were senior Matt Mullinax, expected to start at fullback, and sophomore Quintin Downey, a candidate to start at middle linebacker. At fullback, Dawson Broome and Dylan Kirk got lots of carries and gained ground on the inside. Sophomore Jacob Molock got more time on the field at linebacker in Downey’s absence and showed a nose for the ball.

While there were lots of positives from the jamboree there was at least one negative. Senior running back and defensive back Kyle Reece suffered an injury to his left leg with the Sand Rock game less than three minutes old. Howard said Reece is definitely out for the Appalachian game and highly doubtful for the Class 1A, Region 7 opener at Cedar Bluff game on Sept. 5.       

The Panthers play their first home game Sept. 12, hosting region foe Gaylesville.