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Ten key games for ten area teams in the 2017 season
Portal running back Craig Ware eludes the grasp of Treutlen County defender Kamron Jordan on the way to a touchdown on August 26, 2016.

Summertime in the south is primarily spent doing three things: spending time outside, followed by running back inside to escape the heat and then figuring out how many days are left until football season.
    Nothing runs the South quite like football in the fall, whether that be at the high school or college level. Many of us completely scrap our schedules come August just so we can either head to the local football stadium or sit down to watch a game on TV. So it’s no wonder college football magazines like Athlon and Phil Steele start hitting the shelves in June.
    We can’t help but fill our appetite with football content during the summer because major league baseball is in the middle of the dog days and a NASCAR race only happens once a week. So allow me to gladly jump in on this feeding frenzy by handing out my own dose of high school football summer reading.
    For the next month and a half, I’ll be running these blog-style pieces to prime Bulloch County and beyond for the upcoming 2017 football season. I’ll make sure everyone who reads this sports section will know every detail about the surrounding local teams before we get into the big team previews come August.
    During this July run, we’ll hit all the points with Statesboro, Southeast Bulloch, Bulloch Academy and Portal — plus we’ll take dives at Screven County, Claxton, Pinewood, Emanuel County Institute, Metter and Jenkins County. We’re going to make this football season the best covered one yet in Bulloch County, so without further ado let’s hit the most important game on every team’s 2017 schedule:

    •10/27 vs. South Effingham: Last season this game decided who would earn Region 2-5A’s No. 4 seed despite both teams being 0-8. Of the four region games Statesboro plays, this one at home is by far the easiest with Ware County coming to town in the prior week. This late October matchup could very well again decide who gets left home come the postseason.

    Southeast Bulloch
    •9/22 vs. Jenkins: SEB has a lot of questions with no Pat Collins or Josh Gantt to run the offense, but one thing for certain is the Jenkins game will once again be pivotal in deciding playoff seeds. SEB will have to topple either Jenkins or Savannah to try and land a No. 2 seed, but Jenkins may be more vulnerable on the road with no Joe Burke in the backfield.

    •9/29 vs. Savannah Country Day: Once again, Portal is looking down the barrel of an absolutely brutal schedule this season. The Panthers only get two subregion games at home, the first of which being against SCD. But Hornets are not going to be a pushover, as they return their leading passer, rusher, and receiver from 2016 off a 5-5 team.

    Bulloch Academy
    •10/20 at Pinewood: You can make the argument BA’s two most important games are on the road, but the final meeting with rival Pinewood could have a lot of implications for playoff seeding. Frederica looks to be the favorite in Region 2-3A, so there’s a good chance this game will decide who gets to host a playoff game come to the end of October.

    Screven County
    •11/3 vs. Jefferson County: For Gamecock fans this one seems all too obvious. The region 4-2A championship has been decided in this game for the past three seasons and by most accounts, that’s not going to change in 2017. Both of these teams return a vast majority of their production from last season, making this a must-see game in Sylvania.

    •11/3 vs. Region 3A play-in: ECI is losing one of the all-time great senior classes in the history of their program, but even with those losses they could very well roll through the regular season 9-0 again. Whoever comes out of subregion A — whether it be Savannah Christian or McIntosh County Academy — will be the biggest test ECI gets all season.    Pinewood
    •9/29 vs. Frederica: As previously mentioned, Frederica went 9-2 last season with their leading passer, rusher, and receiver all returning for 2017. By all accounts the Knights will be the favorite to win Region 2-3A, but Pinewood gets a shot at them in Bellville to potentially swing the tides of the region if they can replace some key players in Kaleb Shuman and Wes Purcell..

    •10/27 at Portal: First-year head coach Tony Welch is starting from ground zero in helping rebuild his alma mater, so it’s safe to say his first year in Claxton could be a rough one. The game before the region play-in against Portal still looks to be the most winnable on their schedule and one win is better than none — which is what happened to the Tigers in 2016. 

    •9/22 vs. Jeff Davis: The first two teams Metter gets in their region schedule could very well set the tone for how the Tigers finish this season. Vidalia will be a tough debut, but Jeff Davis could be a game which swings Metter to three wins as opposed to two considering this game was a 17-13 nailbiter in 2016 — falling in favor of Jeff Davis in Hazlehurst.

    Jenkins County
    •9/1 at Wheeler County: Jenkins County started their season 4-2 in 2016 but finished on an 0-3 slide to miss the playoffs. That slide began with a 21-14 heartbreaker to Wheeler County in Millen, who went on to participate in the public A playoffs. Now with the game in Alamo, Jenkins would be smart to not let that game slip again in lieu of missing the postseason again.