Every year before the high school football season kicks off, my wife Laura says, “See you after the Masters.”
Indeed, football and basketball seasons are busy times, but it’s a good busy.
That starts anew with the first Friday night of this football season (John Milledge and Brentwood actually got the Middle Georgia season started off Thursday night, and the first full Friday night comes next week). While it is the 20th season covering high school football in my career, it’s still exciting like it was all the way back in 1993. That was my first year in the business after graduating from college (I actually covered high school games all four years I was in college, as well), and I was thrilled to be covering games back then.
Nothing has changed since.
That might be especially true this year because it looks like it could be a special season in Middle Georgia. The Associated Press’ GHSA preseason poll was released Tuesday, and it showed just how high the expectations should be for this season.
Peach County is ranked No. 1 in Class AAA, while Washington County is fifth. The Trojans have a lot of firepower, including the dynamic Demarcus Robinson, on offense, while the defense has some questions. But Chad Campbell and his coaching staff will find those answers. They always do, and the Trojans should be right back in the state title hunt again.
In Class AAAAA, Northside is ranked No. 2, and the Eagles have a typical Northside team. There is talent all over the roster, and the Eagles, as usual, have enough players and plenty of coaching to have state championship hopes. Northside dropped a heartbreaking loss last year in the semifinals, and the returning players, no doubt, will be motivated by that this season.
Also in Class AAAAA, Warner Robins is tied for seventh, and the Demons also lost in the semifinals last season. Getting that close to playing for a championship is something returning players just don’t forget.
Three Region 2-AAAA teams -- Baldwin (fifth), Westside and Perry (tied for 10th) -- are ranked, while Mary Persons is just outside of the top 10.
In Class AA, Lamar County with first-year head coach Franklin Stephens is ranked second, while Fitzgerald, who is coached by former Lamar County head coach Jason Strickland, is third and Dublin is fifth.
And in Class A, Wilcox County is fifth, while Wilkinson County is ranked sixth. Those two face off in their season opener Aug. 31 in Rochelle.
That all adds up to quite a few chances for Middle Georgia teams to do some serious damage this season.
And that’s just the GHSA.
In the GISA, Tattnall Square only returns five starters from last year’s championship team, but the Trojans, inexperienced as they might be, will be right back in the hunt. That just doesn’t change around the Tattnall campus. Expectations are that high each year, and it makes sense with an outstanding coach like Barney Hester running the show.
Piedmont has won two straight Class AA titles and 26 straight games as it heads into a showdown with Westwood, which also has won two straight state titles and 26 straight games. Those two programs should be commended for playing against each other in such a tough opener. It wouldn’t be a shock to see them playing again later in the season.
But this season won’t be just about the powerhouse teams. There are story lines all over the place in Middle Georgia that will make this season interesting.
Jesse Hicks is back in the area, and that’s a good thing, as he takes over at Central and tries to get the Chargers going in the right direction, while Brian Nelson has replaced the legendary Rodney Walker at Mary Persons.
There is also elite talent all over Middle Georgia: players like Robinson, Montravius Adams (Dooly County), Nigel Bowden (Central) and Johnny O’Neal (West Laurens). It’s always interesting to keep an eye on those kinds of players as they make their way through their senior season before muddling through the end of the recruiting process to find out where they will play in college.
Those kinds of players lead to better teams, and we should have plenty of those this season. That should lead to an exciting, interesting next couple of months.
So, while I’m old. This never gets old.
Contact Daniel Shirley at 744-4227 or firstname.lastname@example.org