Before the 81st annual Shrine Bowl Saturday at Gibbs Stadium, there was another contest that featured the best players from the Carolinas.
The Youth Shrine Bowl kicked off at Gibbs Stadium at Wofford College with a hand-picked group of sixth graders going head to head in a contest that was won by the South Carolina team 7-0.
Former Coastal Carolina and River Bluff head coach David Bennett, who stepped away from coaching after the 2016 season to become the Lexington District One athletics director, returned to the sidelines as the head coach of the Sandlapper team.
"People go, 'what would make you do this? Coach sixth-graders'," Bennett said.
"Man it's a priviledge and a blessing. You get older and you realize it's ain't about me. It ain't about rings. Everybody wants to get those bling rings. They want championships. They want to go in the hall of fame. But at the end of the day, what can we do with the most treasured possessions on this Earth. It's the King's children. It's these kids. We got to be with kids this week and work with them and you know what? They've learned lessons about what not to do and what to do."
Lexington's Cameron Sutton, who attends Pleasant Hill Middle School, was named the game's most valuable player.
"The experience is awesome to play in it because I'm doing something I like which is play football and help little kids in the hospital," Sutton said
"I'm just really happy I won this (MVP) trophy."
Bennett had some familiar names on his Youth Shrine Bowl staff. Longtime college and high school coach Gary Smallen, who coached under Bennett at River Bluff, was the SC offensive coordinator. Mark Bonnette, River Bluff's head baseball coach, was the Sandlappers' defensive coordinator.