WARNER ROBINS -- The beginning of each football season brings with it a certain feeling inside.
For Northside quarterback Jurmon Weaver, it was a little different.
It was appendicitis.
Weaver started feeling bad Tuesday night, was taken to a doctor early Wednesday morning and underwent surgery that night.
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So he’ll be absent when GHSA Class AAAAA’s No. 2 team hosts Class 6A North Cobb in the season opener Friday night at McConnell-Talbert Stadium.
“Even before he went back to the operating room, he was just crying his eyes out because he thought he let the team down,” head coach Kevin Kinsler said. “Obviously, there was nothing he could do about it.”
Kinsler said Weaver’s stomach had been acting up a little, but it got much worse Tuesday night. Weaver’s mother wasted no time Wednesday morning having him looked at, and he was appendix-free after dinner Wednesday night and released Thursday afternoon.
Weaver was inked in as Northside’s starter since the beginning of preseason practice, ahead of senior Tanner Smith and sophomore Tobias Oliver. Oliver appeared to gain the edge on Smith as time wore on.
“(Oliver is) the next man up,” Kinsler said. “He’s been getting reps, he’s just got to play.”
Weaver solidified his grip on the job with last week’s scrimmage against Peach County. Oliver got second-team reps and not against the same Trojans as Weaver.
But the scrimmage and its intensity could pay dividends anyway.
“The thing about playing Peach County -- who’s a very good football team -- is the competitive nature of the scrimmage forces young kids into a situation where they’ve got to grow up and play and be competitive,” Kinsler said. “(Last that) night, we had all the elements of competitiveness, which is something we wanted to see.”
The change might put more pressure on the running game and standout Willie Jordan. He tweaked an ankle at the start of preseason practice and still isn’t 100 percent. But backfield is a position of a little depth for the Eagles, and the offensive line is a strength.
It lost some of that strength Thursday when starting center Wesley Bateman came down with a toe infection, sidelining him.
“And we haven’t gotten to the stadium yet,” Kinsler joked.
Northside’s defense could pick up the slack, although it has some sharpening to do.
“A lot of times, we just didn’t follow through with the plan as far as if we were running a slant, they didn’t follow through and run it all the way through,” Kinsler said of the evening with Peach County. “We didn’t read our keys all the time.”
“It was along the lines of not trusting things. You can teach a kid, ‘Hey, read your keys, and if your key does this, you do that.’ But in a ballgame, sometimes they want to look in the backfield and try to look at what’s going on. That’s when you get caught.”
The Eagles will have a task with North Cobb quarterback Tyler Queen. The 6-foot-2, 225-pound who is committed to Auburn is a dual threat. He passed for 2,150 yards and 22 touchdowns a year ago, running for 434 and nine. Queen, the son of North Cobb head coach Shane Queen, had his own health issue. He suffered an elbow injury in the spring during baseball season, tearing a ligament.
He consulted with renown surgeon Dr. James Andrews, and no surgery was necessary.
“He looked real good in their scrimmage last week,” Kinsler said. “He’s full speed.”
The Eagles have a size advantage up front on both sides, but the smaller Warriors may benefit from less bulk if the heat -- kickoff temperatures will be in the 90s -- stays around.
Nevertheless, the suspense that accompanies every season opener has grown exponentially the past few day for the Eagles, although the philosophy won’t change.
“I still expect us to go out and play and win,” Kinsler said. “That’s just always the way that we’ve done it.”