It’s rare that practice would trump games, but this is the south and football gets going this week.
High schools across the area and state take to the gridiron to begin preparation for their first games on Aug. 28.
Questions like who this year’s region champions will be, will Hall County have another team in the Georgia Dome playing for the state title this year and who will be key offensively and defensively for which teams might not be answered in the first week; but the sidelines of the practice field will serve as a platform for the discussions and a place to whet the appetite for Friday nights.
Georgia and Georgia Tech will also get going this week.
Georgia is coming off a disappointing season and the loss of its two offensive superstars, but there’s still hope for the Bulldogs, who are ranked No. 13 in the Associated Press poll and No. 10 in the USA Today poll.
The 2008 football season ended with 10 victories, including a bowl title, giving Georgia double digits in wins for the sixth time in the past seven seasons.
The Bulldogs have an important month in front of them as they look to replace several key players, including their top passer (Matthew Stafford), rusher (Knowshon Moreno) and reciever (Mohammed Massaquoi). Georgia, however, returns 49 letterman, including seven starters on offense, six on defense and the placekicker.
As far as Tech is concerned, there’s a renewed spirit for the Rambling Wreck faithful after the Yellow Jackets not only finished the 2008 season 9-4 overall and 5-3 in the ACC, but also shared the ACC Coastal Division title with Virginia Tech, earned a bid to the Chick-fil-A Bowl, and finished ranked 22nd in both major national polls.
Not to mention they beat in-state rival Georgia.
Seventeen starters return for Georgia Tech in 2009, including 2008 ACC Player of the Year and 2009 preseason ACC Player of the Year Jonathan Dwyer, who rushed for 1,395 yards last season. Two other players — junior wide receiver Demaryius Thomas and junior safety Morgan Burnett — were named to the preseason All-ACC team. Also back is senior guard Cord Howard, a second team All-ACC pick in 2008, and junior defensive end Derrick Morgan, an honorable mention All-ACC selection.
While the Falcons officially began training camp Saturday, practice will continue this week and will include several events that are open to the public.
Morning practices, which begin at 8:30 a.m., will be open to the public on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday.
Wednesday’s 1:30 p.m. practice, the only one of the day, will also be a fan-friendly event as will Friday’s 10:15 a.m. practice.
If getting in gear for the real games is more your style than watching guys run through drills, the latter part of the week for the Falcons won’t disappoint.
Atlanta is holding a scrimmage at Brookwood High School at 7 p.m. Friday and a mock game at the Georgia Dome at 11 a.m. Saturday: both are free and open to the public.
If you aren’t ready for some football, the Braves and G-Braves are still slugging it out for the playoffs.
Atlanta begins the week in San Diego for a three-game stand and ends it in Los Angeles where the Braves will play the Dodgers from Thursday-Sunday.
The G-Braves, who are one game out of first in the South Division of the International League, will play at Colorado and Toledo with a day off inbetween.