Columbia County football teams started battling the heat Monday on the first day of football practice for the 2010 season.
Obviously, the extreme heat will play a major factor in what teams are able to do. Games start for some teams 16 days from today, so there is no time to waste.
We are coming off a great season, as both Lakeside and Evans made the state playoffs. The Panthers enjoyed the finest season in school history, claiming a region title, winning 11 games and reaching the second round of the playoffs. The Knights had a tough loss in the playoffs but have enjoyed a tremendous run the past few years.
Also last season, Grovetown opened its doors and had a solid showing on the gridiron. Rodney Holder's Warriors won six games in their inaugural campaign.
Here's a few things I will be watching for this season:
Can Troxler keep the Panthers rolling?
Jarrett Troxler takes over the reins at Lakeside from Jody Grooms. Immediately, he will have to replace some talented players.
The Panthers lost All-County linebacker Chris Hartfield, speedy tailback Ricky McMurtry, and Ivy League-bound defensive back Khadi Tshishiku.
However, the cupboard is not bare. The Panthers return two solid quarterbacks. Senior Ben Wilson and junior Mark Weidenaar split time under center last season. Weidenaar is getting looks from several Division I schools, but Wilson should not be discounted. He is a tough competitor, and certainly capable of leading the team.
Weidenaar's size and speed has scouts salivating. He is also a very versatile athlete. Last season, he threw a touchdown pass, ran for a touchdown, and caught a touchdown in the same game -- twice.
The Panthers also return ball-hawking linebacker Kendal Parker. He was among the area leaders in tackles last season, and he also is getting plenty of attention from recruiters.
The Panthers had one of the best defenses in the state a year ago. With the loss of Hartfield, Tshishiku, defensive back Chris Tynan and a few other key defenders, the Panthers will need some young players to step up if they expect to challenge for another region crown.
A key loss at Evans
The Knights had a nice three-year run with talented tailback Jonathan Finch in the backfield. He amassed more than 3,000 career yards for the Knights.
However, he is not the most important player the Knights must replace. That player is quarterback Troy Griffith.
With Griffith the past two seasons, and Kevin Millward the three seasons prior, it has been a while since the Knights had a question mark at quarterback.
At running back, however, the Knights have a star waiting in the wings. Jamerson Turner has showed flashes of brilliance as Finch's understudy. He has game-breaking speed and could emerge as the top back in the county with Finch and Grovetown's Seth Hill out of the picture.
Who will be the breakout star?
Parker and Weidenaar enjoyed their coming-out party last year, and most fans are aware of Turner's talent.
But I think you should keep an eye on junior Myles McDavid, who has transferred from Grovetown to Evans for the new school year. Last season, as a sophomore, he was the Warriors' punter and even returned some kicks. Late in the season, he even got a chance to step in at quarterback in place of starter Xavier Crain, who is a heck of a talent in his own right.
McDavid has already shown he can handle the varsity level. He was a standout in basketball as the starting point guard for the Warriors as a sophomore last season. He averaged nearly 13 points per game and more than 6 assists per contest. He could put up some solid numbers on the gridiron this season for the Knights.
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