If you've been outside the past couple of days, no doubt you've experienced the sweltering heat of another typical Georgia summer. It's not exactly great golf weather. The good news is it means the fall is fast approaching. And with fall brings football.
While school is still in recess for three more weeks, it's never too early to talk football. The News will again be featuring in-depth previews for the local high school teams in August. But now is a good time to take a sneak peek at the schedule and some potential compelling matchups this fall.
The opening two games at Sharp Stadium are also two of the biggest here in Newton County. Alcovy and Eastside again kick off the season when they face each other Aug. 26. The teams have split the past two matchups with Alcovy pitching the only shutout against a Rick Hurst Eastside team in 2009 when the Tigers beat the Eagles 3-0. That was also the same year Alcovy defeated Newton to win the county championship.
Eastside returns much of its defense and several key offensive pieces while Alcovy will feature a very different team. All signs point to an Eastside win but the same could have been said in '09 when Alcovy shocked everyone with the shutout.
In week two, it’s the Newton-Eastside showdown that is always unpredictable. Newton opens its season on the road at Shiloh and should be considered the favorite in that game. While the Rams won't play Alcovy again this year, Eastside can win the county championship with two wins over county foes. But if we've learned anything over the past three years it's that Newton and Eastside always matchup well against each other despite playing in two different classifications. This game is also important for Eastside in that it sets the Eagles up for region play which opens in week three.
Looking at region play for the three teams, a few home games stick out as ones you won't want to miss. First off, Newton opens Region 2-AAAAA play by hosting powerhouse Newnan. The Rams went down to Newnan a year ago and shocked the Cougars with a stirring 35-32 overtime win. The loss was one of two Newnan suffered in 2010 and the past five years overall.
The following week features the big showdown between Eastside and Sandy Creek. The Eagles suffered their worst loss in three years at Sandy Creek a year ago in a game where then starting quarterback Califf Carnes was injured late in the first half. Eastside will be looking for revenge over the one team that knocked them around. It won't be easy as Sandy Creek is the two-time defending state champion having won back-to-back titles in Class AAAA then AAA last year. The winner of this game likely has the inside track at the Region 4-AAA championship.
Looking a little deeper into the schedules finds compelling matchups on Oct. 7 for Newton when the Rams face Stephenson at Sharp Stadium and the next week when Eastside hosts Stockbridge. Newton has played Stephenson tough the past three years only to lose all three matchups. But in each game, Newton had its share of chances to win and you sense it's just a matter of time before the Rams breakthrough with a win. Eastside handled Stockbridge on the road but the Tigers are an up and coming team. This game could present the last tough test for Eastside on its way to what the Eagles hope will be a third region championship in four years.
Looking at Alcovy's schedule reveals a nice homestand which runs the better part of a month. The Tigers were road warriors in their first year in Region 3A-AAAA last season and were never able to get in a groove as they went 0-4 on the road to open region play. The tables turn this year as Alcovy plays four straight home games to open region play, giving the Tigers an opportunity to use the homefield advantage to get off to a better start in 2011.
If the past three years have proved anything it's that making a playoff run is made a lot easier if a team can secure homefield advantage. The Eagles are 5-0 in home playoff games the past three years and 1-3 on the road. Sharp Stadium has always proven to be a tough venue for visiting teams to play at especially when the three teams are in the hunt and the stands are full.
Finally, while Alcovy and Newton won't face each other again in 2011, it could be the last time the two teams miss each other. Under the proposed classification realignment by the Georgia High School Association, set to be in place in 2012, the Tigers and Rams look like they'll be in the same region. Not only will the two county rivals play each other should the plan be ratified later this year, the games will mean more than county bragging rights.