The Lakeside and Evans high school football teams got a break, as neither squad practiced on Labor Day; but with the Panthers and Knights both having an open date on their schedules last week, there is ample opportunity to make up for lost time.
Georgia High School Association football teams get two open dates, or bye weeks, per season. Lakeside and Evans took their first byes simultaneously last week, while Greenbrier is off this week.
A bye week doesn't mean teams are simply biding time, and that is certainly not the case for Lakeside and Evans - the local rivals are preparing for their battle at Blanchard Stadium this Friday.
But, going two weeks between games does present challenges.
"Sometimes we get down mentally and physically, because of the heat, but there's always somebody out here, like the coaches, to pick us up," Lakeside's Clarence Middleton said.
At this point, the Panthers and Knights could use a pick-me-up.
Both teams are coming off losses in their season-openers, where they dropped the ball in similar fashions - Evans committed five turnovers in its 43-26 defeat at Greenbrier High School, while Lakeside had six turnovers and some special teams breakdowns in a 20-0 home loss to Westside High School .
"You hate going into a bye week with a loss, because you have to dwell on it longer than you want," Evans coach Lee Chomskis said. "What we'll do is take a week to heal, and fix the mistakes we've seen from the last game before worrying about our next opponent. On Monday, we'll be back in our normal game-week routine."
Lakeside coach Randy Hill takes a similar approach to the downtime.
"It's time to sit back, evaluate, and work on things you're not very good at. We're just going back to basics, doing individual blocking and tackling drills. The open week gives you time to put some emphasis on special teams play and conditioning."
There is also a chance to be a film critic - Evans and Lakeside will study game tapes of each other, searching for chinks in the other's armor.
Some players say they already know what to look for.
"The team that runs the ball better will win," Evans linebacker Stephan Stegall says. Teammate Jacob Filiatreau says the key will be, "how our offensive line does against their defensive line."
Lakeside's Middleton also has an idea of how things will transpire Friday night.
"At some point in the game, something will happen, one of the teams will make a costly mistake, and that will be the difference."
Preparing for a bitter rival is prime incentive to work hard during the open week, but there is another significant factor pushing Evans and Lakeside to the limit.
"It's a chance to start over with a clean slate after the Westside game. That's what I like about the open week," Lakeside's Johnny Los said. "Going into our next two games with Evans and Greenbrier is just like starting a new season. If we beat Evans and Greenbrier, we'll have a great season. Winning those games would be an explosion, and we'd just take off from there."
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