I am back from my annual trip to Myrtle Beach with the guys for the Junior Wide Open, a golf tournament that we take as seriously as all four PGA Tour majors combined.
I didn't play very well, but I had a good time and I was just happy to be back after missing the last few years. Scott McClintock, an assistant principal at Westside High School, won the event this year by seven shots. He played some terrific golf and deserved his first cup.
He also deserved to have his handicap adjusted, which we as a group promptly did after his win.
The trip is always a lot of fun, but it also signals that football season is just around the corner. When I get back from the trip, I usually have just a few weeks to prepare for the next three months of gridiron action.
Once again, I will be broadcasting the Comcast Game of the Week in addition to providing scoring updates each Friday night on radio. So I will keep pretty busy.
There are many interesting story lines this season. Here are a few things I will be keeping an eye on as the 2009 season gets under way:
Can the Evans Knights continue winning ways?
Evans High School is coming off back-to-back playoff appearances and ran through the regular season with a 10-0 mark. They lost nearly a dozen college signees during the last two seasons, so it would be asking a great deal to expect Evans to repeat last year's stellar performance.
The Knights' cupboard is far from bare, however. They have 6-foot-2 senior quarterback Troy Griffith back after a solid junior season under center in 2008. Griffith might be counted on a little more this year to move the offense via the air.
Also returning is reigning Columbia County Player of the Year Jonathan Finch. He had a monster campaign a year ago, and there is no reason to think he will not put up big numbers again in 2009. If Evans can replace a few key players on defense, they will be the class of Region 3-AAAA again this season.
Holder, Grovetown High hit the ground running
Warriors fans will see some great football in 2009. Let's just hope it is not all put on display by their opponents, a group that includes powerhouse programs Buford, Northside Warner Robins and Fairfield Central (South Carolina).
Head coach Rodney Holder put in his time as an assistant at Greenbrier, now he will have an opportunity to head up his own program. It might take some time, but Grovetown fans, be patient: your football team is in good hands.
The Great Divide
How will the addition of another school in the county affect the level of play of the teams? You cannot split the talent pool as many times as we have done in the county and not have the level of play go down.
First came Lakeside, then Greenbrier, and now Grovetown, not to mention the rise of a program like Augusta Christian attracting some players. That means kids who normally would have gone to Evans and Harlem are basically split four ways.
Three new schools built in 21 years is a lot for any county to handle, and Columbia County athletic programs will feel the growing pains in a number of sports. It is progress, and it comes with the territory when you live in one of the fastest-growing areas in the Southeast. But it is still tough when you see the likelihood of challenging for state championships in the major sports take another hit.
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