Matt Hazel caught 75 passes for nearly 1,200 yards this season at North Augusta and was without peer among wide receivers in the area.
He will be surrounded by plenty of talent today, when he participates in the Shrine Bowl of the Carolinas, a prestigious all-star game in Spartanburg, S.C., matching high school players from South Carolina against North Carolina. Midland Valley lineman Bryan Hadden and coach Rick Knight will also represent the area.
"High school football has been fun," said Hazel, a 6-foot-2 senior who had 1,193 receiving yards and 18 TDs this past season. "This is a good achievement ... I just want to test my skills against the best."
The game concludes a week of activities for the players, who arrived a week ago, checked into a Spartanburg Radisson Inn and practiced as a team. The Shrine Bowl is in its 73rd year and is one of the most significant events of its kind in the country. First played in 1937, it is the oldest high school all-star game in the country.
"It's a great opportunity, and it means a lot," said North Augusta coach Dan Pippin, who visited Hazel at practice earlier in the week. "There's only three receivers from the whole state ... two receivers going to Clemson and Matt, and he did a great job in practice."
Hazel, an uncommitted player with scholarship offers from Western Michigan, Coastal Carolina and others, is actually one of six receivers on the roster, though one receiver played quarterback in high school, another is being mainly recruited at the athlete position and another is going to South Carolina to play basketball. Clemson recruits Martavis Bryant (T.L. Hanna) and DeAndre Hopkins (Daniel), along with Hazel, should give the South Carolina QBs plenty of targets.
University of South Carolina recruit Dylan Thompson (Boiling Springs) and Cody Craig (Timber-land) will play quarterback for the South Carolina team.
"They have some stuff to work on, but other than that they are pretty good," said Hazel, who roomed with Richland Northeast offensive lineman C.J. Wilson this week.
South Carolina has won the past two Shrine Bowls and leads the overall series 40-28-4. Hazel said earlier in the week the teams were staying in the same hotel, but they did not interact much. Talk among the South Carolina players has centered on building a three-game winning streak.
"We think we're going to put something on them," Hazel said.
Staff writer Billy Byler contributed to this story
Reach Matt Middleton at (706) 823-3425 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Shrine Bowl of the Carolinas
WHAT: An all-star football game between the top 46 players from South Carolina and North Carolina high schools.
WHEN/PRICE: 1 p.m. today/$15-25
WHERE: Wofford College, Spartanburg, S.C.
LOCAL CONNECTIONS: North Augusta wide receiver Matt Hazel and Midland Valley offensive lineman Bryan Hadden were the only area players selected to the South Carolina roster. Midland Valley coach Rick Knight is an assistant coach for the South Carolina team.