Many of the Columbia County high schools' football schedules look a bit different this year. Jones County and Baldwin, two far-away teams that have shared a region with Lakeside, Greenbrier and Evans the past two years, are no longer in the picture. Instead, the Academy of Richmond County, an Augusta team, has made the move from Class AAA to AAAA and joined Region 3.
The switch means Lakeside, Greenbrier and Evans will each play Richmond Academy this season.
"For the football program, it will be a pretty big change," Richmond Academy coach Chris Lamb said. "I'm pretty familiar with this level of competition. I'm not going to lie - I'd much rather be in the Augusta region, but it is what it is."
The Musketeers, who shared a region with Harlem in Class AAA last year, will face the bigger schools with Lamb in his first year as head coach.
The former Lithia Springs coach is no stranger to Columbia County sports. He graduated from Lakeside in 1992.
"We won't treat the Columbia County school any differently than Statesboro, Ware County or Brunswick," Lamb said. "We'll prepare for everybody like it's the biggest game we'll play. We try to do what we think we can do to put our kids in the best situation to be successful."
Lamb said his team will use a mix of air and ground attacks out of a multiple wing-T spread offense. On the field, the Musketeers will be led by senior quarterback Jacob Sullivan. The 6-foot-4-inch, 200-pound starter runs a 4.6 40-yard dash and has already drawn interest from college coaches.
Lamb said the real stars of his program, however, are still being developed.
"I'm putting all my money on my freshman and sophomore classes. I've got 70 freshmen and sophomores in the program," Lamb said. "With the numbers we have, I'm working with eight quarterbacks in our system. If I can keep my freshmen and sophomores together, we're going to be OK."
In past years, the Musketeer football program has struggled through its Class AAA schedule. Since the 2004 season, the team holds a 3-17 record and hasn't had a winning season in at least five years.
Lamb said one of his first goals is to change that tradition.
"We're trying to build a program," he said. "We're trying to put a program in place so that instead of down years being 0-10 or 1-9, our down years will be 5-5, 6-4. That's what our ultimate goal is."
Richmond Academy opens its season at home against Effingham County on Sept. 1 at 7:30 p.m.
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