Havoc hoping to build legacy in Florence

March 15, 2019 GMT

FLORENCE, S.C. – With the field mostly in place on Tuesday night at Florence Center, Carolina Havoc general manager Steven Smith felt a wave of emotions as he watched players file in for practice.

“Literally every second I breathe we’re getting closer to the game,” he said. He was talking about his squad’s season opener, which will take place Friday at 7:05 p.m. “We’re really excited to finally be able to bring this brand of football back to Florence – especially in this building with the greatness of teams that have been here before us.”

Smith is hoping to not only add to that legacy, but create a longer-lasting one as well.

It was 2009 when local football fans last had an arena team as the Florence Phantoms called the then Civic Center home from 2006 to 2009. They won the American Indoor Football Association championship in 2008.

Similarly, the Atlanta Havoc captured the American Arena League crown last season before relocating to the Pee Dee for the 2019 campaign.

Smith wasn’t shy in describing how pleased he is with the Havoc’s new venue and residence this season compared to last year.

“”It’s really good,” he said. “Not to mince words, but last year in the facility that we played in in Buford (Ga.) – as nice of a building as it was, we weren’t made to feel like we were at home. We were basically treated like a transient.

“The management here at the Florence Center has done a very good job of making sure that we have all the things that we need to feel at home. …The negotiations with (general manager) Paul Beard (Jr.) and Brian Davison were really smooth and easy.”

It was a perfect match from the beginning, Smith said, as the two sides basically found each other.

“We are thrilled to have the Carolina Havoc call Florence home,” Beard said. “We want to help the team succeed and everyone is hoping for a stellar opening night.”

Fan support is always paramount, and Smith was encouraged by the turnout at the league’s all-star game held in August.

“Here’s the crazy thing … back in August when we had the league’s all-star game here, we did next to no promotion and had over 800 people show up,” he said. “A lot of them didn’t even know what arena football was and then a lot of them came and remembered what the game was like.

“That’s kind of what we’re hoping for (tonight). People who were fans of the Phantoms will come here and see the type of football we provide.”

It will be a slightly different brand of football than maybe some are used to, Smith said. The field is 85 feet wide and 50 yards long with end zones that are eight to 10 yards in length. The field is lined every five yards.

Some of the other differences include eight players on a side for each team; one eligible receiver in motion prior to and at the snap and one point will be awarded on any free kick that goes over the opposite uprights – known as an Uno. For a complete list of rules, fans can visit the league’s website at http://aalfootball.com/index.php/league/game-rules.

The game will be fast and high-scoring, Smith said, and area fans can expect to see a lot of familiar faces from the Pee Dee.

Former Marlboro County standout and Newberry College Hall of Famer Tymere Zimmerman is on board along with Wilson High’s Richard Cue. Cue helped quarterback the 2007 Tigers to the state championship before playing at S.C. State.

Also is in the fold is a pair of former standouts from South Carolina in Victor Hampton, who also starred at Darlington High, and former Lake City running back Shon Carson. Coach Anson Yarborough reached out to Carson and it was an opportunity he couldn’t pass up, he said.

“It’s been a good journey,” Carson said. “I’m just happy to be back and playing in front of the fans that I know – Lake City and all over the Pee Dee. It’s a good thing to be back home.

“It’s a little different playing arena football in terms of the size of the field. But I think I’ll be able to adjust pretty quickly. I got a lot of juice left.”