Normally, Ben Hall likes his football teams to play their season openers as early as possible.
But in his first year as coach at Flowery Branch High, Hall believes starting a week after many other schools will yield big benefits for his squad.
“In a transition year with a new team and new staff, the extra week has been very valuable,” Hall said. “ … Not playing last week allowed us to continue preseason camp and focus on the fundamentals, which we desperately needed a with new system on each side of the ball.”
The Falcons are one of five area teams that will begin the season Friday, joining Lakeview Academy, Riverside Military, Dawson County High and Lumpkin County High. After watching most of their peers open the year five days ago, they’re eager to finally get underway.
“Now we’re in the routine for the upcoming season,” Dawson County coach Sid Maxwell said. “We’ve gotten into prep for game week, and our young men are ready to play. Their focus is to have fun, fly around and try to compete each play.”
Though Dawson County didn’t officially start the season last Friday, the squad did get a small taste of game action in its scrimmage against North Oconee High.
Now the Tigers are set for a road trip to Cumming to face Forsyth Central High, which also didn’t play last week. But even if the teams didn’t have a level playing field in terms of 2017 game experience, Maxwell didn’t put too much stock into beginning the season a week later than other schools.
“There are pluses and minuses to it, obviously,” the coach said. “If you’re able to get that first game out of the way, you have a quicker chance to see what you need to work on. But it’s a long season; after Game 2, 3 or 4, it really doesn’t matter when you started.”
The other four schools, however, will face opponents with a game already their belts.
Riverside Military will take on Region 8-A foe Prince Avenue Christian — which topped Aquinas High 35-17 last Friday — in Bogart. Lakeview Academy hosts an East Jackson squad that fell to Hebron Christian 48-22 last week.
Lumpkin County will clash with White County in Cleveland after the Warriors beat Franklin County 33-0, while Flowery Branch travels to North Hall, which opened the season with a 42-12 loss at Chestatee.
Despite scouting the Trojans in person and not having shown his schemes in a regular-season game yet, Hall said his club is actually at a disadvantage by starting a week later than North Hall.
“Most teams show the most improvement from Game 1 to Game 2,” the Falcons coach said. “It’s already under their belt. We expect them to be much improved, but we still have not played Game 1. Film study, it is what it is.”
But now that the open date is behind those five local teams starting the season Friday, their coaches aren’t dwelling on any positives or negatives from the extra week of preparation. They’re settled into game-week mode and overflowing with anticipation to kick off the year.
For Hall, that means finally getting to see his Flowery Branch squad in action.
“This week, we’ve focused on getting the kids into the game-week routine, which is totally different from preseason, practice-only weeks,” Hall said. “It’ll be nice to play a game and evaluate and see how far we’ve come.”