By Brian Paglia
Since Paul Burgdorf became Union Grove's football coach this past spring, he's guided the Wolverines through spring practice, summer passing leagues, strength and conditioning and fall practices.
"Within the program, I'm not the new guy anymore," Burgdorf said.
But when Union Grove hosts Jackson for a scrimmage at 7:30 p.m., Burgdorf said he will still feel a special excitement in leading the Wolverines in a game-like atmosphere for the first time.
"I'm excited about the position I'm in," he said, "and ready to go after it."
Twelve of the Southern Crescent's teams will scrimmage tonight. Only three will be in the Southern Crescent -- Jackson at Union Grove; Ola at Locust Grove; and Woodland at Stockbridge. All will begin at 7:30 p.m.
Burgdorf has done this before when he began Luella's program in 2004. But, his mission for his team's scrimmage has been the same every season.
"We want to gauge where we are," Burgdorf said. "How successful have we been implementing certain things? How successful have we been at teaching things? ... It'll be a good gauge to see how tough we are and how smart we'll play."
Many players are already entrenched at their position -- it's hard to imagine players like North Clayton linebacker Amarlo Herrera and ELCA safety Avery Walls getting pushed for their starting roles. But coaches said the scrimmage is an opportunity for other players to make an impression.
Positions battles will be decided and uncertainty in the depth chart will be erased. Some players may only get a get quarter or two to play, but it could go a long way toward determining what role they will play when the regular season begins.
"It'll give us a good idea how well some of our guys will compete for a Friday night spot," Burgdorf said. "We'll have several guys going both ways. We'll see who can help us fill in some spots and be an immediate back-up."
For other coaches, tonight marks a beginning. Jajuan Wright (Forest Park), Niketa Battle (Morrow) and Nic Vasilchek (Luella) will be head coaches in a game-like atmosphere for the first time.
For all coaches, the scrimmage is the first glimpse at how much all the team's offseason work has helped them progress.