The high school football season kicks off this weekend with numerous interesting match-ups and rivalries on tap for fans in Middle Georgia.
Headlining the slate of contests is the out of region rematch at McConnell-Talbert Stadium between Northside and Flowery Branch on Friday night.
The Eagles rolled over Flowery Branch 45-7 a year ago, but head coach Chris Griffins Falcons turned their season around and reeled off eight consecutive victories at one point, including a win over eventual state champion and Hall County rival, Gainesville.
Northside would go on to win its first 13 games before falling to Ware County in a semifinal overtime thriller.
Both teams enter their opener ranked in the top 10 of the preseason GHSA AAAAA poll in a game that could potentially be a playoff preview come November.
The Houston County Bears will get the local season underway on Thursday night when Harris County comes to visit. The Bears struggled to a 3-7 record a year ago, but that schedule included a road win over Harris County, who eventually advanced to the third round of the playoffs.
Senior quarterback Taylor Boyett will lead an experienced group of 14 returning starters looking for the schools first playoff appearance since 2006.
The game also marks the start of the Von Lassiter tenure at Houston County after he replaced Greg Robinson in the offseason. Lassiter was most recently the defensive coordinator at Bleckley County.
Another local school that went through a coaching change after the season is Perry, and the Panthers kick off their season on Friday night with a non-region road game at arch rival Peach County.
New Perry head coach Erik Soliday will look to turn around a football feud that has seen the Trojans reel off five straight victories in the series, including a 21-14 triumph a year ago.
Both teams were playoff participants in 2012, but each suffered tremendous graduation loss from their starting units last season. Perry welcomes back just four starters, while head coach Chad Campbells Trojans will see just six returnees and an overall roster that is much smaller than Peach County is accustomed to having at its disposal.
In the other backyard brawl of the weekend, the Warner Robins Demons will square off with Houston County foe, Veterans on Friday night.
The Demons shut out the Warhawks 29-0 last year in the first ever meeting between the schools, but Veterans is looking for a breakout season in just the fourth year of the programs existence.
Fifteen starters return, led by sophomore quarterback Logan Byrd. The young signal caller impressed many around the area last season with his physical style of running and an arm that showed college potential, but stepping up in classification to face the Demons week one will be a very difficult task.
Warner Robins continued the rejuvenation of its program with a return to the playoffs in 2012, and it boasts a quality quarterback of its own in senior leader Caden Johnston, who threw for 800 yards as a junior.
Seven starters in all return from a Demon offense that averaged just shy of 35 points per game last year.
Contact Ryan Jordan at firstname.lastname@example.org.