After weeks of players going up against their teammates, the players at several Middle Georgia football teams will get the chance to face opposing schools this weekend as the state’s preseason scrimmage schedule begins.
Rutland and Warner Robins kick things off Thursday night in Perry. The game had to be moved from McConnell-Talbert Stadium in Warner Robins, which is still undergoing renovations but should be ready for the start of the regular season.
The headline scrimmage for Friday night is perennial championship contender Northside making the trip to Peach County. The two schools with the longest active playoff streaks in Middle Georgia have scrimmaged each other in recent years.
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Houston County will travel to Perry in matchup of new head coaches, with Von Lassiter taking over at Houston County and Erik Soliday making his debut at Perry.
Some schools don’t have room on their regular season schedules to play rivals, so they use the preseason to draw a large crowd for a rivalry scrimmage.
Baldwin will travel to play neighbor Wilkinson County, while Crisp County will make the short trip to Dooly County for a preseason version of the so-called Watermelon Bowl. East Laurens will play at West Laurens.
Other notable scrimmages set for Friday: Central at Westover, Fitzgerald at ECI, Johnson County at Wilcox County, Mary Persons at Manchester and Washington County at Dublin.
John Milledge retooling
J.T. Wall knows he has a tough, if not impossible, task in front of him.
The John Milledge head coach has to find a way to replace three of the best weapons in the GISA from 2012. Quarterback Brantley Attaway passed for 1,462 yards and 22 touchdowns with zero interceptions. Chris Sealey caught 44 passes for 853 yards and 14 touchdowns and returned four punts for touchdowns. Cooper Morgan rushed for 1,840 yards and 30 touchdowns. Those were just the three most prominent losses in a class of 18 seniors. Those seniors helped lead the Trojans to a 12-1 record and a spot in the GISA Class AA semifinals.
Wall will lean on experienced players to fill the void in the backfield. Tommy Pittman and Hunter Harding will get the chance to replace Morgan’s production. Both players were key starters on the defense last season.
The Trojans must replace 16 starters overall.
“I feel better about the team coming out of fall camp,” Wall said. “That’s what you want.”
Softball already rolling
The school year has barely started for most schools around Middle Georgia, but two of the best GISA softball programs are already moving into the second quarter of their seasons.
Tattnall Square is already 10-1 on the season. Kirsten Albright is 7-0 in the circle with a 1.25 ERA, and she leads the team with a .516 average and eight RBI in 31 at bats.
The Trojans are seeking redemption after a disappointing end to last season. Tattnall won its region in 2012, but it lost in the quarterfinals to Bulloch Academy and missed out on the Final Four for the first time since 2009 and only the second time since 2003.
Tattnall beat Bulloch Academy twice so far this season, but the Trojans’ one loss came to rival Stratford.
The Eaglettes started this season with six straight wins -- including the 2-0 win over the Trojans -- before losing to Brentwood and Bulloch Academy.
Stratford is seeking its fifth consecutive GISA Class AAA championship. The Eaglettes have overcome some impressive odds to keep its title run intact. They finished second to Tattnall in region play last year but beat Tiftarea in the quarterfinals to advance to the Final Four. For the third straight year, Stratford lost its Final Four opener and had to battle through the elimination bracket to eventually beat Westfield in the championship series.