The time has finally come.
All the hype, anticipation and anxiety will come to a halt this Friday when the high school football season kicks off on Friday.
Can Buford win a fourth-consecutive Class AA championship? Can Gainesville — which came within two points of a state title — and Flowery Branch — a 2009 state semifinalist — make another deep run in the playoffs despite major turnover? How will teams adapt to region and classification realignments?
Answers to these questions will start coming this week. Gainesville, ranked No. 7 in Class AAA coaches preseason poll, play host to Buford, ranked No. 1 in Class AA. Jefferson, ranked No. 10, will travel to Commerce to renew a rivalry spanning more than 60 years.
Flowery Branch travels to Madison County, and Habersham Central hits the road to play Apalachee. Speaking of rivalries, Week 1 also features an in-county rivalry matchup between West Hall and East Hall.
ATLANTA BRAVES: Although it’s late-August, the Braves turn a new chapter in their season with the addition of first baseman Derrek Lee, brought in via trade from the Cubs to provide a spark to counter Troy Glaus’ rapid decline and Chipper Jones’ season-ending injury.
With Lee, the return of Martin Prado from the DL and the constant solid starting pitching the Braves have received all season, the team will look to further separate themselves from the Phillies in the win column beginning today with a three-game series in Colorado and another three-game series in Atlanta against the Marlins.
GWINNETT BRAVES: Though the G-Braves have been long since eliminated from postseason contention, their series’ this week against Charlotte, Durham and Norfolk in Lawrenceville will be significant. That’s because this is the final full week before major league teams expand from a 25- to 40-man roster on Sept. 1.
That means one final tune-up before 20-year-old slugging first baseman Freddie Freeman and others like Brandon Hicks, Craig Kimbrel and Mike Dunn before a potential call-up to Atlanta.
ATLANTA FALCONS: The Falcons look to get back on track and show their coaches and fans they’re not the dreadful bunch that were handily defeated by the New England Patriots, 28-10, when they play the Dolphins in Miami on Friday at 7 p.m.
When the Falcons take the field, they’ll be without rookie receiver Kerry Meier, a fifth-round pick who was placed on injured reserve after suffering a knee injury in the New England game.