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Area football teams prepare for season with scrimmages
Preseason begins today
0814SPORTS Branch1
Flowery Branch quarterback Jackson McDonald (left) drops back as Andrew Miles (right) blocks for him during a practice Tuesday in Flowery Branch. Falcons head coach Chris Griffin watches in the background. - photo by Jared Putnam

Complete area scrimmage schedule

Flowery Branch at Brookwood
Chestatee at East Hall
Jefferson at Morgan County
Grayson at Gainesville
Berkmar at Buford
Athens Academy at Jackson County
Lakeview Academy at Mount Pisgah
Lumpkin County at Banks County
Dawson County at Towns County
Hart County at Habersham Central
Aug. 22
White County at Union County
Aug. 23
North Hall at Salem (Va.)
Riverside Military at Hebron

High school football makes its unofficial return tonight.

With the regular season quickly approaching, teams from throughout the state will take to the field for preseason scrimmages, a tune up of sorts before heading into the regular season.

The first scrimmage of the season is tonight, when Flowery Branch visits Gwinnett County powerhouse Brookwood.

“It is good for players and coaches, it puts us in situations that are hard to duplicate in practice,” said Flowery Branch head coach Chris Griffin. “You have to put yourself in a position to find out if you’re ready for the line of fire come the regular season.”

While the majority of high school football scrimmages will be held Friday night, some teams have elected to hold scrimmages even earlier, like Flowery Branch and Brookwood, while others have elected to postpone scrimmages until next week.

Four teams in the state, including West Hall, will not hold a preseason scrimmage this season.

Coaches have many different ways of finding a preseason opponent. Some aim to play a team from a different classification, some aim to find the best opponens in the state to challenge their team, while others find an opponent from within their own county to cut down on travel costs.

One intra-Hall County scrimmage features Chestatee visiting East Hall Thursday night at 7 p.m. The teams last met as region opponents six seasons ago when Chestatee beat the Vikings 47-14. Since then, the two have become common scrimmage opponents with shared desires and outcomes.

“Coach (Bryan) Gray and I get along and we are looking for the same things out of the scrimmage. It is good for both teams,” said Chestatee head coach Stan Luttrell.

“We have North Hall, West Hall and Johnson all on our schedule, so it makes sense to have another local team on for the scrimmage.”

Both teams Thursday night will “keep it simple on both sides of the ball,” Luttrell said, giving the coaches an opportunity to evaluate their players while limiting injury opportunities.

“A lot of times coaches don’t want to over emphasize a scrimmage or play a rival because there is a build up and then usually a let down in week one,” said Gray, East Hall’s head coach. “We are just going to go and get a good evaluation of our kids.”

One thing will be for certain, both teams will respect one another and will get plenty of good looks against the type of competition they will see throughout the regular season.

“We aren’t really a rivalry because we do a lot of things together in the summer,” Gray said. “Our kids know their kids. There is a sense of comfort with them. They like to go against speed and we like to go against strength and size. We resemble a number of teams they play and they resemble a number of teams we play.”

A common goal among coaches in scrimmages is to present mutliple in-game scenarios to their teams, while avoiding injuries.

“We will probably take it easy in the kicking game – we don’t want to pressure them too much,” Griffin said. “But other than that, it is pretty much true game scenarios.

“You want to try and put them in as many game situations as you can, and if you’re going to make a mistake, you want to make them in a scrimmage.”

For West Hall, the Spartans were unable to secure a scrimmage after their scheduled opponent dropped the game.

Now, head coach Tony Lotti and his coaching staff have the challenge of preparing for their Aug. 23 regular season opener against Johnson High without competing against another team in the preseason.

“From the coaching side, it would have been nice to see what kind of adjustments need to be made going into the season,” Lotti said. “We are going to continue to do what we do as far as practice goes.”

Also on Thursday night, reigning Class AA state champion Jefferson will visit Morgan County in a preseason scrimmage. The following night, another pair of state champions from last season will be in action.

Class AAAAA state champion Gainesville will host 2011 champion Grayson at City Park Stadium, marking the second straight season the teams have met in the preseason, while Class AAA champion Buford will play host to Gwinnett County foe Berkmar.

Lakeview Academy will host Mount Pisgah on Friday night, while Johnson will host Loganville. Lumpkin County will visit Banks County, Towns County will host Dawson County and Hart County will visit Habersham Central, all on Friday night.

North Hall will hold its scrimmage next Friday in Salem, Va. The scrimmage game will be a homecoming for Trojan head coach Bob Christmas, who spent 19 years coaching football in Virginia.

The scrimmage will feature different game scenarios, according to Christmas, although he admits the Trojans aren’t scouting their opponent and are instead focusing on the first three weeks of the regular season.

“We are going to treat it like a game, but we are not going to spend the time scouting and putting together a game plan for them, like we would for a regular game,” Christmas said. “We are busy right now putting scouting reports together on our first three opponents.”

Also next week, White County will visit Union County in the preseason, while Riverside Military, which began camp Aug. 7, will hold its preseason scrimmage at Hebron Christian Academy in Dacula.

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