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T.G.I.Friday Night Fever

While it's not quite on the same level as the Watergate scandal, former President Gerald Ford's line appropriately fits - 'our long national nightmare is over.' Football season is here!

The NFL preseason schedule is coming to a close and the real games are just around the corner.

College football celebrates its return today headlined with Georgia Tech hosting Jacksonville State in Paul Johnson's debut.

Then there's No. 1 ranked Georgia taking it's first steps toward a possible national title when it welcomes Georgia Southern to Athens this Saturday.

But for the citizens of Clayton and Henry County, this week means one thing and one thing only - High School Football.

Our hometown teen-age heroes have been busy the past month sweating through the scalding heat in preparation for this weekend's games with visions of playing at the Dome in November dancing in their heads.

The once dormant parking lots at Tara and Twelve Oaks Stadium, as well as the various high schools in Henry County will once again be packed with parents, teachers and students who've come out to passionately support their team in the weekly tradition of Friday Night Fever that consumes the entire region.

While I'm no stranger to the game, the 2008 season marks my second time around the block covering football in the Southern Crescent. I learned so much about the community from my comfortable view on press row and I'm looking forward to continuing my education one week at a time.

During this preseason, I've read several reports, spoken with various coaches and watched a bunch of teams crack helmets amidst the sizzling heat of summertime afternoons in Georgia, where a short drive from Stockbridge to Jonesboro is hot enough to defrost a two-pound pot roast.

After discussing every aspect with my colleagues, I developed my own predictions for this year's outcome that's sure to give Miss Cleo a run for a her money.

Everyone has an opinion about this, that and the other, so here's my two son, allowing only 27 goals in 49 games. Cristofoli had a 0.70 goals-against average last season and was selected to the All-Region team.

But the defense is Petersen's main concern. Even with sophomore Brett Neilsen returning, an All-Conference selection last season, Petersen doesn't have the dominant field leader that he's had in the past. Petersen was forced to move Matthias Faublas from forward and midfield to defense. Transfers Patrick Ahern (Memphis) and Ben LeBois (South Carolina) should make an immediate impact.

"For the last eight years we've always had one big player back there," Petersen said. "Physically fast and commanding, and is an older player and runs the show. We don't have that this year. This is my only concern."

Then there's up front, where Angel Kalinov finally gets a chance to start after playing a back-up role the past three years, plus junior Jonathan McKeever and freshman Ryan Pugh, an All-State player from Whitewater High School in Fayetteville.

Soon enough Petersen will find out how good this team, that has had only two-and-a-half weeks together, can be. Too soon.

"They're keen. They're hungry. They're young," Petersen said. "Definitely the future's bright. It's this year we're concerned about. The jury's still out."