There was some late-night - or was it early-morning? - revelry in Columbia County this week, and it was all because of football.
The Harlem and Lakeside high school football teams held "Midnight Madness" practices, which coincided with the first day the Georgia High School Association allows full-gear workouts.
In other words, prep players could officially begin pounding away on Monday, and the Bulldogs and Panthers didn't waste any time - they started practice shortly after the stroke of midnight, as soon as Sunday night was history.
As an eerie orange moon peaked over the pines in Harlem, the Dogs peeked out of the football field house, anxiously waiting to hit the gridiron, and each other.
About a half hour after they took the field Monday morning, the Dogs had their day, and the 80 or so spectators listened to pads and helmets collide.
"We finally got to hit," Harlem linebacker Josh Wilmoth said. "We've been looking forward to this since last season ended."
This was Harlem's third Midnight Madness under head coach Jimmie Lewis, and the Old Dog is enjoying the new tradition.
"I'm almost 50 years old, and I'm as excited as can be," Lewis said.
At Lakeside, meanwhile, players congregated outside the school's front door at 11:47 p.m, ready for their first-ever taste of Midnight Madness. A couple of impatient Panthers took some steps toward the stadium, but stopped in their tracks when a coach called, "Wait!"
Five minutes later, the unified march to Panther Stadium began, and after another five minutes, the field lights slowly flickered to life.
Lakeside head coach Randy Hill asked, "What time is it? We don't want to start early and break any rules."
When the witching hour arrived, the players loosened up, and a few rebel yells were unleashed.
Approximately two dozen fans watched Lakeside's first full-contact practice of the 2002 season; but before the late-night show concluded, the crowd swelled, as three Columbia County cops parked their cruisers nearby and decided to spy the action.
There was at least one law broken at Panther Stadium, and it wasn't curfew - as the squad ran through an offense vs. defense drill, the first fumble of the season occurred.
"We don't put the ball on the ground!," cried chagrined offensive coach Jon Johnson.
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