Believe it or not, the high school football season is just a mere six weeks away from kicking off Aug. 17. That’s great news for fans eager to pack the stands on those warm Friday nights at the start of the season and see their favorite school play.
Even closer is the start of football practice in pads, which takes place for the first time July 25, per GHSA guidelines. All 10 Hall County high school football programs will be diligently using their time to sharpen their skills to put the best product on the field in Week 1.
Early in the season is when the fun comes in with county rivalries before everyone splits up into their respective regions.
However, all the best matchups are not based on geographic proximity. Largely, it’s a measuring stick for how each team looks in the first month of the season leading up to the all-important region matchups.
Here’s a look at the best matchup on Aug. 31:
Week 3: West Hall vs. Jefferson
The Spartans will face a measuring stick early in coach Krofton Montgomery’s first season at the helm to determine where they stand in Class 4A.
Though the Dragons moved down to Class 3A in the GHSA’s mid-cycle adjustment, they’ve recently been a powerhouse that routinely made deep playoff runs in the next-highest classification.
West Hall’s performance against Jefferson in its home stadium should be a good indicator of how competitive the Spartans will be in the loaded Region 7-4A, which is home to Blessed Trinity and Marist — last year’s state championship participants — and that just welcomed nine-win Flowery Branch as part of the mid-cycle adjustment.
Montgomery’s squad has a strong chance to be 2-0 at that point after starting the season against Class A Commerce and Johnson, the cross-town rival it has beaten by double digits in each of the last five years.
The question is how comfortable the Spartans will be in Montgomery’s more wide-open passing attack. With great returning production at the skill positions and junior quarterback Michael Thompson providing continuity under center, the offensive transition might not be so difficult.
If anything, the Week 3 game against Jefferson will be a chance for West Hall players to build on any early-season momentum and further familiarize themselves with new schemes. After facing the Dragons, the Spartans have just one more non-region contest before diving into the part of the schedule that will make or break their playoff fate.
OTHERS TO WATCH: West Hall’s region mate Flowery Branch hosts Clarke Central, with which it shared Region 8-5A for the first two years of the current classification cycle. The Falcons won last year’s matchup, 32-14, en route to a second-place region finish.
Gainesville also welcomes Lambert to City Park Stadium, and just about every Red Elephants game this season will be worth watching simply to see how they look under new management following the retirement of 16-year coach Bruce Miller.