New Lovejoy defensive coordinator Edgar Carson will get his first look at his unit against an opposing team when the Wildcats take on Peachtree Ridge tonight in a scrimmage game. (Staff Photo: Derrick Mahone).
Let the games begin.
Well, sort of.
Teams from throughout the county will start playing their exhibition games tonight. It will give players, coaches and fans their first look at an opposing team since last season.
“Yes, you are kind of ready to see how you look against someone else,” said Eagle’s Landing Christian coach Jonathan Gess, whose team is the defending Class A private school champion.
ELCA will travel to Dutchtown for a scrimmage that will have the JV and ninth-grade squads playing the first quarter before giving way to the varsity the last three quarters.
This will give Kevin Jones his first look at his team in a game type of situation. Jones is in his first season at Dutchtown after serving as the defensive coordinator at Lovejoy.
“These scrimmages are really good stuff,” Jones said. “I’m so happy we get to touch somebody else for a change instead of beating up on ourselves.”
Said Mount Zion coach Ervin Starr: “You don’t really know what you’ve got until you put the pads on them, and see it on the field against somebody else.”
The rules of the games will likely be the same for most of the scrimmages. Most teams will not go totally live on special teams.
Gess said they will not let quarterback Dalton Etheridge use his full range of skills. The senior will not be allowed to run as much as he would if this was a regular-season game.
“We know what Dalton can do,” Gess said.
Gess is more interested in seeing what his younger, inexperienced players can do in game-like conditions.
“We have some players that haven’t played as much that we will be counting on,” Gess said. “You want to get them in game situations to see how they react.”
Drew coach Jarrett Laws agreed.
“You are putting them in a competitive situation,” Laws said. “You want to see how they handle the situations. We are going to put our younger guys in different scenarios to see how they react. We are going to setup the playing calling to test the kids. We know we are going to be the underdog in most games, so we want to give them a taste of what to expect.”
But don’t expect teams to use their full playbook in these scrimmages.
“The thing is most teams will stay vanilla,” Eagle’s Landing coach Joe Teknipp said. “It is more of a work day for our players. You want to accomplish things, but you also want to give the younger players a chance to play.”
Eagle’s Landing will play this week, and have next week off before it begins its season on Aug. 30 against Ola.
“You want to dissect things before you play the real games,” Teknipp said.
ELCA is in a different situation. The Chargers will open the season next week against Class AAA opponent Washington County in Sandersville. Last season, Washington County won 24-19, but the Chargers rebounded to win their next 14 games and the state title.
Gess said starting the season after the scrimmage game was done by design.
“In high school football, you can’t get better until you play,” Gess said. “My philosophy is to schedule the best teams you can find. You want to get better each week.”
Coming off a 1-9 season, Teknipp said a good showing in the scrimmage could provide some momentum going into the season.
“Beating a quality opponent can build some momentum,” Teknipp said.
“In any competitive situation, you want to win,” Laws said.
But each coach has the same objective - keeping the players healthy.
“You don’t want to get anybody hurt,” Teknipp said. “We will have a quick whistle on the quarterback.”