The solar eclipse has passed and the sun’s brightness has returned.
Now, it’s time to shed some light on the “Big-11” high school football outlook to get you ready for Friday Night Lights.
As always, there are interesting tidbits for the upcoming season. Here we go to get you set for the bleachers.
Due to the way the calendar falls this year, games get underway on Friday, August 25th. That also means most teams will have two games under their belt before the Labor Day holiday. Expect to see a lot of beach attire, halter tops and sunscreen at those openers.
Two “Big-11” teams look to defend state championships from 2016. Salem (VHSL Group 4A) made it two in a row last year, and the Spartans will open this year on the road at Amherst County, where a few people will undoubtably bring up “the catch” by Amherst County in the left end zone at Salem Stadium in what seems eons ago. Win at Amherst, and Salem head coach Steven Magenbauer will pick up his 150th win at Salem.
Roanoke Catholic, state champs in the VIS Division III ranks last year, will literally have to take a tough road if they want to repeat in 2017. The Celtics will play six straight road games to start the season including lengthy jaunts to King and Queen Central, Richmond Christian, Fishbone Military and Fuqua. They’ll return to the friendly confines of Vinyard Park on October 13.
North Cross, which lost in the VIS Division II championship last year, takes on a shortened 9-game schedule in 2017. With no lights at Thomas Field on the North Cross campus, and to avoid the hideous leg cramps that come with early-season day games, the Raiders open with a home game at 7:00 pm at the Salem High School on-campus stadium. They will follow with trips to Fishburne Military and St. Anne’s-Belfield in Charlottesville before returning to Thomas Field on Thursday, September 28th to face Blue Ridge.
Ironically, last year Roanoke Catholic lost it’s opener to North Cross before running the table for their state championship. North Cross won every game before losing in their title game. This year the teams meet on October 21st at North Cross, where the Saturday afternoon rivalry will also be the Raiders’ homecoming.
One of the best high school games in the last decade was the contest four years ago in Daleville between Lord Botetourt and Northside, won by the Cavaliers 21-14 in overtime. School officials must have either been impressed by the rivalry or the gate. This year the two teams play twice, September 22 in Daleville and October 20 at Northside.
And, no word if West Virginia Governor and Greenbrier Resort owner Jim Justice, head basketball coach of the Greenbrier East Spartans in Lewisburg will be on hand when the football Spartans visit Botetourt on October 6th.
Speaking of double plays, the two “Big-11” Bills, William Byrd and William Fleming, also play each other twice this year, September 29 on the artificial turf at Fleming followed by October 13 on the new fake grass at Bob Patterson Stadium. For Byrd, it’s two straight against the Colonels. Fleming gets Northside between the two. And, the Colonels move to Group 5A this year, joining Patrick Henry as our two “Big-11” 5A squads.
Byrd debuts its new artificial turf field by hosting Southwest County squads Cave Spring and Hidden Valley in the opening two weeks. Should we expect Byrd senior running back Larry Basham to only get faster on the new surface? He has 90 career touchdowns heading into 2017, and put up 7 in one game last year against Lord Botetourt.
Northside looks to its third head coach in as many years as Scott Fisher takes over for the Vikings.
Tough road in weeks 1-5 for the Vikes, opening on the road with Pulaski County, Heritage and Hidden Valley, before coming home to Salem and Botetourt.
Hidden Valley opens again against Patrick Henry, this time at Bogle Stadium. They finish the regular season on November 3 against rival Cave Spring, this time as the visitors at Bogle.
Cave Spring will have its armored Knight mascot on the sideline and another Knight on the field as junior third-year quarterback Jacob Knight will be calling the signals for Tim Fulton.
Glenvar opens at home against Galax and closes the regular season at Redford. The Highlanders play a “Big-11” opponent only once, when Cave Spring travels to Highlander Heaven on September 8th. Glenvar gets its big rivalry game against Giles at home October 20.
Patrick Henry opens with three straight road games, at Hidden Valley, Brookville and a trip across town for a matchup against William Fleming with the Noel C. Taylor Cup and city bragging rights on the line. The Patriots then return to Merrill Gainer Field where things don’t get any easier as Albemarle, Blacksburg and Salem come calling.
By mid-November we’ll have the start of playoffs, with sweaters, parkas and hot chocolate the items of choice. The main thing is to get out and support your favorite team regardless of their record and playoff potential.