It's a long drive to Brunswick, Ga.
Though that sentence won't win me any award for deep insight, it's true. I found out the hard way last week, when the Evans High School football team invited me on the team bus for their Thursday night game at the southeastern Georgia town.
I knew that drive hasn't been kind to our football teams. Since that crazy region realignment put Evans, Greenbrier and Lakeside in the same region as Brunswick, Ware County and Glynn Academy, the 200-mile road trip (one way) has been a huge factor.
Entering this weekend's games, Columbia County's teams have a combined 1-9 record when making that trip. Evans beat Wayne County down there last year 21-14. Needless to say, the long road trip is a tough obstacle to overcome.
That's why I hopped on the Evans bus last weekend. I wasn't looking for something wrong that was being done on the road trip that led to the disadvantage. Instead, I was simply there for the experience.
Here's what I found:
1 p.m. I meet up with the team at West Acres Baptist Church, where a meal of chicken, baked potatoes, green beans, rolls and an Oreo dessert is being served. My first thought was, "Why haven't I made this trip before?"
1:38 p.m. We leave Evans for Brunswick on a pair of chartered buses. I'm on the defense's bus. Both have comfortable seats with small televisions mounted just above every third or fourth row.
1:43 p.m. It's already time to put these TVs to use. As our chicken and potatoes digest, we enjoy Denzel Washington in Remember the Titans.
3:31 p.m. The movie is over. The Titans have been remembered, and there's still no sign of an Interstate. We're on the Statesboro bypass now.
3:32 p.m. It's time to begin the process of getting focused for the big game. Denzel is pulled for game film. On the screen, Brunswick is battling Lakeside.
3:44 p.m. Two hours, six minutes after we started, we finally hit our first interstate. We take Interstate 16 East. Just under a half-hour later, we headed south on Interstate 95.
4:11 p.m. Brunswick beat Lakeside 24-7 on the TV screens. Now it's Wayne County's turn to lose to the Pirates.
4:45 p.m. Brunswick wraps up its 28-2 win over Wayne County. Now on to the Greenbrier film. It's three quarters of Brunswick domination and one quarter of Greenbrier pulling a miraculous comeback in a 22-19 win.
4:59 p.m. Just north of Brunswick we take a 20-minute break at a rest area off I-95. The boys get a few snacks and a chance to use the restrooms. More important, we get to stretch our legs.
5:38 p.m. We finally pull in to Glynn County Stadium. Including the 20-minute break at the rest area, it was a trip that took exactly four hours. We're welcomed with a large developing mass of dark clouds to the west.
6:35 p.m. The Evans team takes the field for pregame warm ups just as a light rain starts to fall.
7:21 p.m. Immediately after the national anthem, a large bolt of lightning nails some poor patch of land uncomfortably close to the stadium.
The field is cleared and our hopes of a 7:30 p.m. start time are shattered. It's just what this team needs - more waiting time.
8:01 p.m. The rain hasn't stopped, but the lightning is gone. Both teams return to the field for another round of warm ups.
8:14 p.m. Finally! Kickoff! Well over 6 hours after climbing onto the bus in Evans, the Knights finally get to play some football. Needless to say, they didn't play well. Evans got hammered 24-6.
11:10 p.m. The game has been over for 16 minutes, and I file a game story I didn't want to write. I used a phone line connection from the press box.
It's a luxury most high school sports writers can only dream of.
11:46 p.m. After a quick snack and a secret, impromptu meeting of the Knights of the Roundtable, we board the bus and head home. I thought the four-hour ride to the stadium took forever.
After watching an 18-point loss to break Evans' undefeated record, I know this ride home will be even longer.
3:21 a.m. Both buses pull into the Evans parking lot three hours and 35 minutes after we left Brunswick.
I'm tired, the coaches are tired, the players are tired and the three or four dozen parents waiting at the campus to pick up their kids are tired.
No one really wants to talk about the game. For the ninth time in 10 trips, a Columbia County team has returned from a 400-mile round-trip journey with a region loss.
A new region realignment will be announced in the spring. I'm welcoming the Class AAAAA ranks with open arms.
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