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Let the hitting begin!

By Steve Williams

Another high school football season is almost upon us.

Three weeks from now, without fail, the summer temperatures will drop and there will be a nip in the air, just in time for opening kickoffs.

Teams have been preparing since the week of July 8, after the Tennessee Secondary Schools Athletic Association’s “dead period” ended.

During those first 15 days, there were 7-on-7 contests and conditioning workouts in shorts and T-shirts (no pads). The TSSAA’s new mandatory requirement of practicing three days in helmets and shoulder pads before going into full uniform – to get acclimated to the hot weather – was on last week’s calendar.

Today (July 29) is the first day teams can practice in full pads.

Let the hitting begin!

Over the next three weeks, teams will scrimmage against each other, and the annual jamborees, much like dress rehearsals, will take place in front of big turnouts. Knoxville teams, along with some area teams, will be playing in the Tennessee Orthopedic Clinic Kickoff Classic at Neyland Stadium on August 15.

Season openers will get underway for many teams the following week, with the first big Friday night of the campaign being August 23.

Beginning with today’s issue and continuing the next two weeks, The Knoxville Focus will be running a series of “outlook” stories on local teams.

Here’s some questions that may come up in the preview stories:

Will Christian Academy of Knoxville continue to be a state power without record-setting quarterback Charlie High and Company?

How will the Austin-East Roadrunners fare under youthful new coach Jeff Phillips?

Will Todd Kelly, Jr., Webb School star and University of Tennessee commitment, dominate in the Spartans’ secondary?

As we peek ahead to the 2013 season, I’ve noticed a lot of new, intriguing games on the schedules.

For starters, Fulton, the 2012 Class 4A state champion, will play at Powell, a Class 5A semifinalist last season, in a huge headliner on Thursday, August 22. The Panthers, by the way, are now in Class 6A.

Other opening week attractions, on August 23, will include Bearden at Sevier County, Webb at Maryville, Austin-East at Grace Christian Academy, Chattanooga Notre Dame at Catholic and Williamsburg, Ky., at Halls.

The second week of play also will feature some new matchups – Catholic traveling to Coalfield, Powell visiting CAK, Halls going to Union County, GCA on the road at Kingston and Webb entertaining Chattanooga Baylor.

With Gibbs moving up to Class 5A this season, fans of the Eagles have probably already noticed a lot of new opponents on Gibbs’ schedule, including Anderson County, Clinton and Oak Ridge, along with Karns, Powell and Central. An old rival – the Halls Red Devils – returns on the Gibbs’ schedule as well, as the Eagles join District 3-AAA.

Another longtime KFL rivalry will be renewed on Sept. 27 when Central plays at Fulton. The Bobcats and Falcons haven’t met on the football field since 1998. These two teams used to travel up and down Broadway to battle on an annual basis back in the 1970s and 1980s and most of the ‘90s.

Of course, other local showdowns – like Farragut at Bearden, Fulton at A-E and Catholic at Webb – will be played in exciting atmospheres.

The countdown is on.

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