A recent photo shows the nearly finished renovations to Lee County High School's football field.
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LEESBURG — Tailgaters will be eating sausage, eggs and biscuits instead of hot dogs and hamburgers on Saturday when Westover High School opens its 2014 football season at Lee County.
That’s because the anticipated game, which will air live on ESPNU, has been moved to 9 a.m. Both schools announced the change Thursday morning because of heat-related concerns.
Officials were concerned that by the time Saturday’s game, which was originally scheduled to kick off at 1 p.m., started, the temperature would be unsafe for the two teams. The National Weather Service is forecasting a high of 101 degrees, making it one of the hottest days of the year.
Representatives from both schools and ESPN agreed to move the game up four hours from its original start. It will still be televised live, then replayed at 1 p.m.
“Safety needs to be the first and foremost concern,” Lee County football coach Dean Fabrizio said. “When the temperature gets over 100 degrees, it’s not smart to play the game. I think this is a good thing for the kids.”
The game is one of seven that will air on the ESPN family of networks this weekend and is part of the 2014 High School Football Kickoff. Two games will be played tonight starting at 6 p.m. The first game features a pair of South Carolina powers – Byrnes and Northwestern.
Westover and Lee will be the first of five games on Saturday. Buford will join the pair and represent Georgia with a 9 p.m. kickoff on ESPN2 against Trinity Christian (Fla.).
It will also be an opportunity for Lee County to show off its recent stadium improvements, which features artificial stadium turf and a new video board screen.
“This is a win-win for everyone involved,” Westover principal William Chunn said. “I had the opportunity to see the new Lee County field, and it’s a beautiful facility. This will be a great game and a great day for Lee County and Westover.”
It remains to be seen how the time change will affect game attendance. High school football fans are unaccustomed to games that start before noon, but with the high temperatures that have invaded Southwest Georgia, the argument could be viewed in a variety of ways.
“I think that depends on how you look at it,” Fabrizio said. “It’s a lot more comfortable at 9 or 10 in the morning rather than 1 or 2 in the afternoon. More people may want to come now.”
Westover coach Octavia Jones added, “Either way, it’s still going to be hot.”
Fabrizio commended both schools and ESPN for making the changes, two days before the kickoff.
“The kids safety needs to be top priority,” he said.