The Spring Garden Panthers won’t have far to travel for their pre-season jamboree games this year. It’s Spring Garden’s turn to host the annual Cherokee County fall football jamboree. The Panthers won’t have to wait much longer to get their two quarters of action against North Sand Mountain and Sand Rock. The jamboree is Thursday night. Spring Garden meets North Sand Mountain at 5 p.m. and entertains Sand Rock’s Wildcats at 5:35 p.m.

The Panthers are ready to take some snaps against someone they don’t see in the hallways every day, someone who doesn’t already know what’s coming because they have the same playbook.

“We’re getting to that point they’re getting tired of beating up on each other,” Spring Garden head coach Jason Howard said after Tuesday’s practice. “It’s time to play a jamboree.”

The jamboree games will consist of two 12-minutes quarters. A running clock will be used until the final minute of the second quarter. Games are expected to last about 30 minutes.  

In addition to Sand Rock and North Sand Mountain, Spring Garden’s football party will also include Cedar Bluff, Gaylesville, Glencoe, Weaver and White Plains. All eight teams will play two games. Only Spring Garden at the start and Cedar Bluff at the end will be asked to play back-to-back games. The others will play once, rest for about 30 minutes and then play again.     

Howard said Tuesday that his team’s defense is a little behind where he would like it to be, partly because his Class 1A program doesn’t have enough players to give the defense a good look in practice because so many defenders are also key players on offense.

A chance to play a jamboree gives the defenders a solid look at the No. 1 offense of their opponent but it’s a two-edged sword.

“I think it’s a catch-22 for teams like us,” Howard said. “I think in a lot of ways it does give us an opportunity to get that look but I also think that we have to be extremely careful.”    

In last year’s jamboree action, the Panthers lost Will Ivey, their returning starter at quarterback, for the first four games of the regular season.

“You don’t want to leave them in too long and run the risk of them getting hurt,” Howard noted, adding that his goal was to have players stay in the games long enough to get film of them to use as a teaching tool.

Spring Garden opens the 2014 season at Appalachian on August 29.