For weeks, as football players crouched tense, awaiting the snap, the jersey across scrimmage was identical to their own, distinguished only by a red tank top defensive teammates typically wear.
Beginning Friday, that jersey across the midway will be an altogether different one worn by a nemesis. And the impending clash far more meaningful.
Through long, hot summer practices, players have butted heads among themselves. Now, as this week kicks off the football season for most teams around the state, it’s time to clash with opponents.
Class AA’s action figures to be as fierce as in any of the state’s now six classifications, with 17 of its teams having teed off in an abbreviated slate of games last week and most of its remaining 62 springing into action tonight. It’s particularly big for fans, the sport’s junkies who’ve longingly ticked the summer days off their calendar, awaiting their initial glimpse of many of the state’s ranked teams.
Here are some key games involving ranked AA teams:
– Monroe (Region 1-AAAA) at No. 3 Brooks County (Region 1-AA): The Trojans already are on track toward a fifth appearance in at least the second round of the playoffs, having trounced Clinch County 43-3 in last week’s season opener. Brooks and Monroe have met only the last two years, with Brooks having come out on top both times. Brooks comes in with a balanced offense that generated 170 passing and 184 rushing against Clinch and undoubtedly would like to continue that in Monroe’s opener.
– No. 6 Dublin (Region 3-AA) at Dodge County (Region 3-AAA): This will be the Fighting Irish’s initial step toward a ninth consecutive playoff appearance and first state championship since tying Charlton County in 2006. The Irish are coming off a region championship and quarterfinal appearance last year against eventual state champion Calhoun.
– Savannah (Region 1-AAA) at No. 8 Greater Atlanta Christian (Region 6-AA): The Spartans enter the teams’ first meeting with momentum of having beaten Stone Mountain 34-26 in their opener, but face a long, six-game trek before four region games beginning in mid-October. History hints to an advantage for GAC, considering Savannah hasn’t had a winning season since 1995, when it went 7-4 and reached the first round of the postseason.
– No. 10 Vidalia (Region 2-AA) at West Laurens (Region 2-AAAA): Unlike GAC, which has six games to prepare for region play, this is Vidalia’s only non-region game. The Indians are on an eight-game win streak against the Raiders, to whom they last lost in 1985. Look for the Indians to be sparked by running back Juan Foster and linebacker Nic McBride
– Ridgeland (Region 7-AAAA) at No. 1 Calhoun (Region 7-AA): This is a highly awaited first glimpse at the defending state champion and top-ranked Yellow Jackets, who are vying for their 12th straight region championship. Challenging for Calhoun will be activating its almost entirely rebuilt defense. But the offense is anchored by returning quarterback Taylor Lamb, a South Alabama commitment who led the state with 3,638 yards passing last year.