Kickoff looms

It doesn’t seem like it has been very long since the spring high school sports season ended, but the fall season is coming around the corner at breakneck speed.

For many area fans that means football and before we know it, the Friday Night Lights will be lit.

Area high school football teams are eligible to officially start practice on Aug. 1. Many of those players are already involved in conditioning workouts over the summer.

If you drive by an area school, you can see workouts outside and you can bet there’s plenty of action going on in the weight room.

Those are all normal activities before play begins.

Something that’s out of the norm will be some new teams on the schedules. And those additions are very intriguing.

Culpeper County makes the jump from Class 3 to join the Class 4 Northwestern District. The Blue Devils, whose first game goes all the way back to 1913, are coming off an interesting season last fall.

After starting 1-3, Culpeper ripped off wins in 9 of its next 10 games to advance to the Class 3 semifinals, where the Blue Devils lost 35-14 to Phoebus. They played that Final Four contest without quarterback Eric Wilson, who suffered a broken leg in the regional semifinals. Wilson is back this season.

In addition to losing several key players from that team, Culpeper also lost its head coach. Ken Wakefield left to take the head position at Patrick Henry-Ashland.

The Blue Devils will be led this by former Prince Edward High School coach James Ford, who had a 24-58 record in eight seasons at his alma mater that included a pair of playoff appearances in 2014 and 2016.

However, the biggest changes come in the Bull Run District where Clarke County will have several new and very tough opponents on the schedule.

Gone are Central and George Mason, which have moved up to the Class 3 Northwestern District. Joining the Bull Run are Luray, Page County, Stonewall Jackson and East Rockingham.

Certainly the most notable of those programs is East Rockingham, which began playing football in 2010. Since that initial campaign, Coach Donnie Coleman has led the Eagles to eight consecutive playoff berths. East Rockingham is coming off its best season, having won its first 13 games before falling to Goochland in the Class 2 semifinals.

Luray is no slouch either. The Bulldogs went 8-4 last season before falling against Central in the semifinals of the Region 2B playoffs. Luray knocked off Clarke County in the 2017 regionals.

Page County is coming off a 4-6 season in which all of the Gladiators’ losses came against playoff teams (five in Class 2 and one to Class 1 state champion Riverheads).

Stonewall Jackson has not won a game since midway through the 2015 season. The Generals went 0-11 last season, including a playoff loss.

Fridays are going to offer area fans a variety of options. In six of the regular season’s 11 weeks (which include a bye), there are at least four games scheduled on Friday evenings.

The season kicks off on Aug. 30 and it features a couple of interesting matchups. Defending Northwestern District champion Sherando opens at James Wood. Clarke County hosts Buffalo Gap, the team that eliminated the Eagles in last season’s regional playoffs.

Another intriguing matchup happens on Sept. 13 as Sherando hosts Martinsburg (W.Va.). The Warriors were the only team to give the perennial West Virginia champions a decent game (50-45) last season.

Other matchups that will determine the Barr-Lindon Crimson Apple(affectionately known as the Apple Cup) are: Sherando at Millbrook (Sept. 27), Handley at Millbrook (Oct. 11), Sherando at Handley (Oct. 19), Millbrook at James Wood (Nov. 1) and James Wood at Handley (Nov. 9).

Clarke County hosts East Rockingham (Sept. 27) and Page County (Nov. 1). Those and all Clarke County home games are moving up to 7 p.m. starts.

For the second straight year, we will combine with the staff of the Northern Virginia Daily to preview area teams in a preseason guide. That special section will appear in the Star on Aug. 28.

Just two days later, the bands will be playing and the cheerleaders will be cheering. The kickoff is just around the corner.

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