A new pressbox sits on a hill overlooking a gleaming set of new bleachers at Jock Horner Field.
New nets stand tall behind the goal posts, ready to catch any ball that splits the uprights.
And a new era begins for the Lakeview Academy football program — playing under the lights on Friday night.
“A lot of people are excited,” Lakeview football coach Matthew Gruhn said. “A lot of people don’t know what to expect but they’re excited to see what happens on Friday nights.
“I hope we give them a good show.”
Tonight, the Lions will embark on their first season as a varsity program when they face Towns County.
“We’re real excited,” said Lakeview senior quarterback Haughton Carswell. “I am ready to go out and play, there’s nothing like it.”
The two teams met last year with the junior varsity Lakeview squad beating Town County’s varsity 8-6.
At that time, the Indians were on a 26-game losing streak. A streak that extended to 36 by the end of last season.
This year, however, Towns County has started strong, beating Rabun County 20-0 in its first game of the 2008 season.
“They are a much improved team from last year,” Gruhn said, “but I hope we are too.
“We’re going to do what we do and we’ll see what happens.”
With the novelty of playing under the lights on a Friday night for the first time as an added distraction, the Lions have spent the week trying to focus on everything but that.
“We’ve just tried to work hard and take care of what we do,” Gruhn said. “We’re not trying to hype it anymore than it’s going to be hyped.”
For Carswell and his teammates, “working hard and not taking any minutes off,” has been their main focus in this week’s practices.
“We’ve definitely kept the intensity up,” said senior wide receiver Nick Saye. “Everyone’s out here playing with a passion.”
Lakeview comes into tonight’s contest aware that size will be an issue, especially against a team who, according to second-year Towns County coach Kyle Langford, “utilizes guys up front because they’ve got a couple of 260-pounders up there.”
“Really our only advantage is that we’ve played a full game and they haven’t,” Langford said. “Lakeview’s going to be well-coached and do exactly what they’re supposed to do.
“They’ll be disciplined.”
“We won’t have a size advantage,” Gruhn said. “But you can negate size with toughness and quickness.”
The Lions will be without starting offensive and defensive lineman Harrison Bradley, but will look to Carswell, along with fullbacks Tom Drury and Patrick McCormack to carry the load in their triple option offense.
Defensively, Gruhn is hopeful that Lex Little, the team’s leading tackler in 2007, will pick up where he left off last season, and that the team’s linebacking corps will live up to expectations.
“We feel great about our linebackers,” Gruhn said. “We expect them all to come ready to play and help us out.”
The pressure of playing a varsity game for the first time, accompanied with playing an improved Towns County team coming in with momentum, could stifle a young program in an opening game.
Gruhn and his coaching staff have worked diligently to lighten the load.
“We just want them to come out here and perform and execute,” Gruhn said. “We want them to do what we do everyday in practice.
“If we can do that then hopefully we’ll be OK.”
If the players excitement and attitudes are any indication, the Lions will be more than OK.
“They won last week so we know they will come in here hyped,” Carswell said. “We have to meet that.”
“They’re going to bring the whole mountain down,” Saye said. “It’s going to be exciting.”