Welcome to another high school football season and another Columbia County News-Times football preview section.
In the next few pages, we've included everything we could, save scratch-and-sniff popcorn stickers, to get fans reader for high school football.
Excitement has surrounded all five of our teams this year. We saw levels of football ranging from a state championship team to a 1-9 cellar-dweller last season. This year, anything's possible.
To fully equip the county's football fans with all things necessary for the season, here's a run down of the Big Four Issues surrounding county football:
1. The Heat
Capitalize it. I probably should have underlined, italicized and embossed it, too.
This year, The Heat makes the decisions. The Heat tells coaches when to practice and when to sit in the gym. The Heat decides whether to put on the pads or get out the film. The Heat is relentless and inescapable. We should call The Heat "sir" and give it 10 percent of our football budgets.
With an Aug. 2 practice start date, coaches missed almost a full week of practice because The Heat shattered the century mark and, because of new guidelines set by the Columbia County Board of Education, practices were canceled.
Will the missed practices translate into a slower start for our four public schools? Maybe not. Greenbrier and Lakeside high schools are playing smaller schools in week 1 and Evans and Harlem high schools are playing each other, so at least The Heat hit them equally.
2. The Opponents
Statesboro is still the toughest opponent that local schools will face this season. The Blue Devils won the Class AAAA state title last year and appear to have grown more talent this season.
As for the other opponents, most people in the county probably don't know, or care about, the difference between Ware County and Wayne County. Diehard fans will weave through the Georgia countryside looking for both South Georgia counties this year after a region realignment that made the NCAA's Bowl Championship Series system sound like a good idea.
If the Georgia High School Sports Association keeps pulling stunts like this, we might have everyone moving to South Carolina Independent Schools Association.
3. The Assistant Coaches
Though all but one head coach stayed put, this year was apparently the time to fire, hire and become an assistant football coach. Former Greenbrier head coach Mickey Derrick is Evans' assistant coach, while former Cross Creek head coach Kevin Hunt is Greenbrier's assistant coach. Augusta Christian's former assistant coach Bryan Wilson became Curtis Baptist head coach, and Lakeside's assistant football coach Ryan Morningstar became the school's head basketball coach, just to name a few.
4. The Thank Yous
A huge amount of time and hard work went in to creating this year's high school football preview section.
A Gatorade shower and a game ball should be directly awarded to Barry Paschal, Jim Whitaker, Jim Blaylock, Valerie Rowell, Scott Trubey, the Columbia County News-Times advertising staff, Jeff Sentell, Ashley Brown, Greg Aplin and Robertson Grading Inc.
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