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Rams lighting a fire

Just inside the main entrance of Francis Marion High School sits a trophy case the envy of most basketball programs in the state.

Since 1988, the Rams have won six state titles and been close numerous other times.

That kind of success takes talent, of course, but it’s something far more tangible that keeps the Rams program among the best&045;&045; hard work.

Instead of preparing for a relaxing summer by the pool like many high school students, the Rams are gearing up for what amounts to an entire second season of basketball.

With the help of a community-sponsored, non-profit organization,

the Rams or their alter-ego, the M.A.T.C.H. Strikers, will play around 20 games this off-season.

Sponsored by Members Acting To Change Humanity, or M.A.T.C.H., the Rams will appear as the M.A.T.C.H. Strikers minus coach Woodie Jackson in the regional round of the Alabama Sports Festival June 7 in Birmingham.

Their appearance as the Strikers will allow the team at least four games, more if they qualify for the state tournament on June 28.

M.A.T.C.H. also will sponsor the team in a team camp in June, one that Jackson is allowed to attend.

They will play an additional 16 games or so at the camp.

Jackson said the extra work is invaluable to the program.

Senior-to-be and team captain Julius Allgood agrees.

The support of M.A.T.C.H is invaluable to the program, according to Jackson.

Sports is just one of the &uot;sparks&uot; that M.A.T.C.H supports for after-school activities.

Turner said they also sponsor Teen Talk, Boys and Girls Scouts, after-school tutoring and arts and crafts.

The Sports Festival and the Alabama High School Athletic Association have rules that prohibit coaches from working with their teams during the tournament.

It’s a win-win situation for the community and the team.

The community gets a program filled with hard-working young men.

The team gets to hone their skills on a big stage.

Oh yeah, they get to win championships, too.