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Welcome back, football Fridays
High school fans pack the stands for start of season
Chestatee High School fans cheer during their game Friday night against Gainesville High School. Gainesville shut out the War Eagles 35-0 in the opening game of the season for the teams. - photo by SARA GUEVARA

The leaves haven't changed yet, and the late afternoon sun still burns like it did at midsummer.

But don't tell area football fans it isn't fall yet.

High school football season began in earnest in Northeast Georgia on Friday night with a full schedule of games in the area. And fans of local teams were more than ready for that long-awaited kickoff.

"Football's a man's game, and I think every man gets excited at the start of the season, especially in the South," Gainesville High fan Coy Ward said. "Football is THE sport in the South."

Gainesville rewarded its fans before a full War Eagle Stadium, beating Chestatee 35-0.

"The kids have been very excited and it's been a good community feel around the school," Chestatee's Athletic Director Chip Underwood said. "The kids on the team are excited and the kids in the halls are excited for them. I think I saw 100 banners supporting the team this week.

"I'm excited and I'm nervous for them. It's kind of like they're your own kids. You want them to succeed."

Just up the road, North Hall began defense of its Region 7-AAA title with a 28-6 win over Johnson High at The Brickyard, despite opening with 13 new starters.

"It's always exciting to see how the young kids have stepped up and progressed as varsity players," said North Hall parent Neal Booth, whose son, Ben Booth, is a junior linebacker and running back for the Trojans.

But the game still offered hope for fans of the Knights, who finished 4-6 last year.

"It's exciting to come out and see how the team looks this year," Johnson senior Ben Brisbois said. "Tonight's game will definitely have an impact on the rest of the season."

"I had butterflies in my stomach all the way to the game," said Sharon Cannon, mother of Johnson player Chris Cannon. "This is all he (Chris) has been talking about. He's tired of practicing and ready to get down to business."

In other games Friday, West Hall edged East Jackson 28-27 in Oakwood; Riverside Military Academy topped Elbert County 21-20 at Maginnis Field in its return to GHSA play; and Flowery Branch fell to Stephens County 28-25 in Toccoa.