The two best parts of the football season have to be the beginning and the end of the regular season.
This time of year, there’s nothing but hot weather, anticipation, hard work and a whole lot of, “what could be,” in the air.
At the end of the regular season, you get cold weather, reflection and a whole lot of, “What went right,” and, “What went wrong.”
And — if your team was good enough, worked hard enough and, yes, got lucky enough — you get to look forward to the postseason.
But out of all the ups and downs that happen throughout the course of the football season, the best feeling in the world, as the old and increasingly tired saying goes, is when everybody’s 0-0 and has the world at their fingertips.
There’s plenty to be excited about this season.
The hype surrounding the Georgia Southern Eagles is pretty easy to explain. They made it to the semifinals of the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs last year, and just about all the starters are back.
That one is fairly self-explanatory.
The Statesboro Blue Devils are in a similar situation. They made it to the semifinals of the GHSA Class AAAA semifinals in 2010, and have a ton of key pieces returning to the mix.
The Devils always seem to own the trenches, so when there’s skill players returning to the mix that have proven to have the ability to take the team that extra mile, it’s traditionally been a recipe for success.
Bulloch Academy’s recipe for success, on the other hand, has a few new ingredients
Ronnie Hodges replaces Clint Morgan as the Gators head coach, and has the unenviable task of replacing a bunch of starters, including quarterback Brandon Walker.
He is also changing up the offensive philosophy a bit, from Morgan’s dual-slot, option attack to a more traditional I-formation and wishbone approach.
Fortunately, BA has experience in the trenches on both sides of the ball, and it’s awfully hard to build anything without a foundation.
Not to mention, the Gators proved very quickly in 2010 that the move to GISA Class AAA, the highest classification in the independent ranks, wasn’t the least bit intimidating.
Southeast Bulloch got the gorilla in the room — one of the state’s longest losing streaks — out of the way in a hurry under then-first-year coach Pat Collins in 2010.
Collins, no stranger to the GHSA Region 3-AA football landscape, instilled a renewed focus in the Yellow Jackets and, although the struggles continued, the season ended with plenty of reasons to be optimistic.
Speaking of optimism, the Portal Panthers won three out of their last four games in 2010.
The downside is that they are now under their third head coach in as many years, but the upside is that David NeSmith had the starters playing neck-and-neck with Class AA contender Tattnall County in last week’s scrimmage.
The one consistency through the last five years has been the lights-out play of the PHS defense, so if Portal can put up enough points, they will be in the mix of a very, very tough Region 3-A schedule.
It’s no secret that Emanuel County Institute, Johnson County and the three Savannah schools in the east division of 3-A have controlled things in the region for a while, but Allen Cartwright has slowly-but-surely gotten Claxton into a position of respect amongst the region, and Mike West made a splash in his first year at Metter, with a marquee win over Vidalia and a .500 season for a program that had previously tallied four-consecutive losing seasons, two of which were winless.
It’s hard to believe the season is only two weeks away, but without the time to properly let the anticipation to build, the start of the 2011 football season wouldn’t be nearly as exciting.
Matt Yogus can be reached at (912) 489-9408.