By Steve Williams

The Spring Fling has come and gone … Football, anyone?

Well, after today (June 7), it’s only 72 days to the opening kickoff for the 2021 high school season. Yep, just 11 Friday nights away from those Week 1 games.

Opening night, however, won’t be on a Friday. It’ll be on Thursday, Aug. 19, with Mark Packer and his Rivalry Thursday Night television crew bringing the first game into your living room for viewing.

Of  course, for a few bucks, you can see it live and in person.

I’m talking about South-Doyle at Oak Ridge.

Yes, the last game of the 2020 season involving a Knox County team will be the first game of 2021.

It may even feel a little like Groundhog Day for South-Doyle Coach Clark Duncan and Oak Ridge Coach Joe Gaddis and some of the players when they arrive at Blankenship Field that night.

Oak Ridge held off South-Doyle 14-0 in last season’s TSSAA Class 5A state semifinal game in the Atomic City. So it’s definitely kind of strange that the Wildcats and Cherokees will square off again right from the start this season.

After Oak Ridge defeated South-Doyle last year, the Wildcats lost to Summit 28-7 in the state finals at Tennessee Tech in Cookeville.

Anyway, it’s a great leadoff for a Sneak Peek of interesting matchups on the ’21 card.

This list doesn’t necessarily include the traditional rivalries. Rather, it’s a list of games with interesting storylines and some that are unusual or just plain new.

So fasten your chin straps, and here we go:

Aug. 19: South-Doyle at Oak Ridge … Last to finish on the local scene in 2020 and first to start in 2021.

Aug. 20: Rivals Fulton and Austin-East will get right to it on MLK Boulevard. Beep, beep! … Farragut, meanwhile, will travel 180 miles to play at Beech High in Hendersonville, about 20 miles north of Nashville. Not only will it be a long road trip for the Admirals, it could be a tough one. After losing at Powell 26-24 as a season-opening replacement opponent in 2020, Beech won 10 straight games before falling to eventual state champion Summit 36-29 in the state quarterfinals … Lakeway Christian Academy, a fairly new football program in the Morristown area, will be at Grace Christian and this game will feature new head coaches at both schools – Steve Haywood (LCA) and Justin Long (GCA) … Gatlinburg-Pittman will host Seymour – two programs that used to clash for district championships often back in the day when Benny Hammonds guided the Highlanders and Gary Householder directed the Eagles. It would be great to see the Hall of Famers introduced in a pre-game ceremony and then make the coin toss at midfield.

Aug. 21: Greeneville at Central. A new regular-season matchup of former state champions. It’ll be a Rivalry Thursday TV production on a Saturday night, too. Did Central Coach Nick Craney being a former Greene Devil and graduating from GHS have something to do with this season opener? Probably.

Aug. 26: Powell plays at Maryville. Definitely circle this Thursday TV game on your calendar! The Panthers will have a chance to snap Maryville’s 105-game win streak over Knox County teams, which began with a 31-12 win over South-Doyle on Sept. 29, 2000.

Aug. 27: Meigs County at The King’s Academy. You don’t see the Tigers in this part of East Tennessee very often. Meigs County was 14-1 and the Class 2A state runner-up last season … Austin-East at Clinton. It will be the first meeting between the Roadrunners and Dragons since A-E won 27-7 in Knoxville in 1982.

Sept. 3: Farragut hosts Maryville. Will the Rebels be going for their 107th straight win over Knox County teams or trying to start a new streak? … Halls Coach Scott Cummings will be coaching his first game at West High since guiding the Rebels to the Class 5A state championship in 2014.

Sept. 10: CAK at Goodpasture. Yes, this is the team that ended the Warriors’ unbeaten run in the second round of the playoffs last season … Karns at Tennessee High. A treat for the Beavers to get to play at the Stone Castle stadium in Bristol, one of the state’s oldest and most famous prep venues.

Sept. 23: Alcoa at West. This just proves West Coach Lamar Brown and the Rebels will play anybody, anytime, anywhere.

Sept. 24: Chattanooga Brainerd at A-E. A matchup of two old rivals … Farragut at South-Doyle. Eddie Courtney and Clark Duncan have both been coaching since the 1980s and have faced each other maybe three times … South Pittsburg at TKA. The school southwest of Chattanooga near the Alabama state line has a storied football tradition and used to run the Single Wing offense for years.

Sept. 30: Carter at Anderson County. There will be some fireworks at this game for sure.

Oct. 1: Powell at Oak Ridge. A region game that could be a dandy.

Oct. 7: Central at South-Doyle. They’re no longer in the same region, but that’s not stopping them from squaring off again.

Oct. 21: Knoxville Catholic at Powell. Panthers Coach Matt Lowe should get an award for putting together the most attractive and challenging schedule of the 2021 season!

Oct. 22: West at Maryville. Will Maryville’s 20-year dominance of Knox County teams still be in the works?

Oct. 29: Bearden at Farragut. The weather may be a little chilly by then, but playing in the last week of the regular season just makes this longtime West Knoxville rivalry that much hotter.