For Stratford football head coach Mark Farriba, this opening week to the high school football season seems like just about any other, at least in terms of preparation.
The same kind of anticipation to go up against an opposing team, the eagerness to go play a game that counts in the standings, is there.
But this season’s opening games will have a different feel to them. Stratford will be making its GHSA debut Friday, joining Mount de Sales and Tattnall Square as transfers from the GISA.
“Its big night for us being first one, but it’s really the same as any other Week 1,” said Farriba, whose team will host Savannah Country Day. “It’s the reason why you practice, to get to the game and do your thing.”
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The air of anticipation is a little different at Mount de Sales, where a new head coach, a new offense and the resumption of a rivalry from the 1960s and 1970s are in play.
According to the Georgia High School Football Historians website, this will be the 12th meeting between Pacelli and Mount de Sales, which was a GHSA member through the 1979-80 school year. Pacelli leads the series 8-3, with the teams meeting annually between 1966 and their most recent meeting in 1975.
“I’ve had a lot alumni and former players tell me that they are really excited about renewing this rivalry,” first-year Mount de Sales head coach Keith Hatcher said. “It’s exciting for us to open up with a school that we have a long history with.”
Tattnall, meanwhile, will host GMC on Friday in the Trojans’ GHSA debut. The Trojans (8-3 last season) go up against a GMC squad that is coming off back-to-back 4-6 seasons.
Stratford, with an experienced offensive line and some promising skill players who have seen success on the basketball floor, has received a lot of preseason attention. Last year’s GISA Class AAA runner-up received votes in the Associated Press Class A preseason poll.
The Eagles (10-3) dealt with some injury issues during the preseason, but Farriba said he expects to have all of his key players ready to go Friday.
“We understand that we are still in the process of learning and growing,” Farriba said. “We’ve got a bunch of guys willing to jump on board and go with it.”
Savannah Country Day, which went 5-5 last season, opened last week with a 43-7 loss to Episcopal of Jacksonville, Florida.
Farriba said Savannah Country Day kept things close in the first half, just missing out on a touchdown in the final moments of the second quarter that would have sent the Hornets into halftime tied.
“They’ve got a good quarterback, a veteran guy, as well as a couple of skill guys,” said Farriba, referring to junior quarterback Hunter Hatley, a starter last season. “They do a really good job with the no-huddle. They’re a lot like everyone else; they’re fighting hard to gain respect and make a name for themselves.”
Mount de Sales (3-8) faces a Pacelli squad that went 7-4 and reached the GHSA Class A private school playoffs last season.
The Cavaliers faced strong competition Aug. 15 in a scrimmage against Howard, a team that went on to tie defending GHSA Class AA runner-up Lamar County on the road last Friday.
“The guys are working hard and are getting better,” Hatcher said. “(Scrimmaging) Howard was valuable. The urgency level has picked up as game night gets closer.”