DAMASCUS — Don’t look now, but high school football is coming soon to a stadium near you.
This Friday, in fact.
Southwest Georgia Academy in Damascus will be the first program in the area to kick off the 2013 season when it hosts Ashford (Ala.) Academy in roughly 24 hours. Starting this early is nothing new for the Warriors’ program, which has typically been the first to hit the gridiron in recent years. The game against Ashford Academy, last year’s Alabama state champ, will mark the first contest in SGA’s 11-game GISA schedule and is a rematch of last year’s early season contest won by Ashford on a last-second field goal.
“You know, being from a public school before I retired and came to the private sector, I used to get all my guys together and take them out to the first game (usually a private-school contest) every year, and I really think it gets them in the football state-of-mind watching a real game that early,” said SGA first-year head coach Brent Miller, who takes over for David Bell after Bell left to take an assistant job at GHSA powerhouse Cairo High School. “So because it’s us being the first game of the year — and considering how we lost that game last year — I know my kids are ready for this game. And I’ve talked to a lot of public-school head coaches who we played summer ball with who are going to make the trip out here to watch us. I think it’s going to make for a great crowd and an interesting evening.”
Other area programs will follow suit a week later when eight more teams kick off their seasons, including GISA programs Deerfield-Windsor, Sherwood Christian, Terrell Academy, Westwood and Southland, and GHSA programs Baconton Charter, Bainbridge and Worth County.
Deerfield, the reigning GISA Class AAA state champ, will host Class AA SGA at Webb-Memorial Stadium, while Sherwood will hit the road for its first game at Trinity Christian in Dublin. Southland heads to Macon to face Tattnall Square, while Westwood (vs. Piedmont Academy) and Terrell Academy (at Tiftarea Academy) will also both open on the road.
In GHSA, the early action begins with Class AAAAA Bainbridge playing at East Gadsden (Fla.) High School; Worth County is traveling to Swainsboro; and Baconton hosts Brantley County in its opener, marking the Blazers’ fourth official varsity season.
With Randolph Southern school closing after the 2012-13 school year, The Herald’s coverage area is one school lighter this season as the majority of the rest of the area teams kick off their campaigns Aug. 30. That includes one GISA team, Crisp Academy (at Nathanael Greene), and 15 GHSA teams, starting with Class A’s Calhoun County (at Berrien), Randolph-Clay (vs. Hancock Central), Seminole County (vs. Early County), Miller County (vs. Schley County), Mitchell County (vs. Clinch County) and Terrell County (vs. Marion County). In Class AA, Early County opens at Seminole County and Pelham hosts Baconton Charter. In Class AAAA, Crisp County begins at Turner County, Americus hosts Kendrick, Monroe welcomes Brooks County to Hugh Mills Stadium and Dougherty takes a short ride to Leesburg to face AAAAA Lee County.
Albany and Westover, meanwhile, will begin their seasons as the finales Saturday, Aug. 31, when the Indians host Greenville at Hugh Mills Stadium and the Patriots travel to Tift County.