It’s football time!
Published 3:27 pm Tuesday, August 15, 2017
By MICHAEL MURRAY
It’s football time here in South Georgia!
Every sports fan knows what that means. Pretty soon, the weather will begin to cool off and give us South Georgians a little reprieve from the type of mid-summer heat that can make a person feel bad for a baked potato.
As the weather changes, the leaves on the trees will begin to turn bright shades of orange, red, crimson, and yellow.
That won’t be the only thing that changes, however. As summer turns into fall, college campuses all over the country will begin to become speckled with flags, tents, and fanatics clad in red, crimson, and yellow (among many, many other colors).
That’s just on Saturdays, though.
On Sundays, fans of gridiron squads from all over the country will be putting on their “lucky” jerseys or, in some cases, more unsavory garments, to cheer on their favorite NFL franchise, all the while steadily checking up on how their fantasy teams are faring. I, for one, am hoping that Julio Jones will have another banner year and help me earn another first-place win in the league I share with my buddies (Go Falcons!).
Friday nights are when the real spectacle happens in Sumter County and much of the rest of South Georgia, when the all of the area high schools don their pads and their jerseys and prepare to hit the gridiron to test their mettle against rivals, both old and new.
But the current high school athletes certainly aren’t the only hometown gladiators that are working to hone their athletic skills and help instill a sense of pride in their native communities.
There are plenty of Sumter and Schley locals who are preparing to continue to make waves on gridiron squads all across the country.
ASHS alumnus, Tyler Clark, made a name for himself at the University of Georgia last season, recording 21 tackles as a true freshman for the Bulldogs. Clark also assisted on a trio of sacks from the position of defensive tackle. As Clark continues to build his repertoire of skills, he will surely continue to be a valuable asset to the Bulldogs as he furthers his gridiron career.
In his sophomore year with Georgia Southern University, former ASHS back, Wesley Fields, has attracted a good deal of attention to himself as a valuable running back for the Eagles. Last season, Fields played in nine games, putting 492 yards in the record book through rushes. Fields also pulled down 11 passes for another 177 yards. Fields scored six times for the Eagles, following up on his freshman season in which he was named offensive MVP of the GoDaddy Bowl. Fields will be looking to build on these impressive statistics in the near future.
Recent ASHS graduates, Benn Walters and Donald McCook will also be looking to make some plays in the near future, holding down the offensive lines for the University of West Georgia Wolves and the Middle Georgia College Knights, respectively. 2017 ASHS graduate, Eric Brown, will be soon embarking on his college football career with the Fort Valley State University Wildcats as well.
Schley County’s very own Tra Minter kicked off his first season on the collegiate gridiron at Garden Valley Community College in Kansas last year, helping lead the Bronco Busters to a win in the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) championship game. In his role as a running back for the team, Minter amassed 1,255 yards on 291 rushes and crossed into the end zone 10 times. Not too shabby.
Minter has since joined the University of South Alabama Jaguars, a Division 1 NCAA team, for the 2017 season. This fall, he will be donning the red, white, and blue uniform and looking to help lead his team to another winning season.
Southland Academy graduate, Taylor Weldon, got his first taste of collegiate football action last year, joining his teammates on Columbia University’s defensive line in a tilt against Brown University. With this experience under his belt, Weldon is sure to see much more action in the coming months.
For those who can’t make the trip to see these athletes put their skills to the test, there will be plenty of Friday night action on the home front.
The Americus-Sumter High School Panthers will be kicking off their 2017 campaign on August 25 in Americus, taking on the Crisp County Cougars in the newly-resurrected “Battle of the Flint”. With the roar of the Panthers’ rabid blue-and-white-clad fan base filling Finklea-Robinson Field, this match-up is sure to be a spectacle.
The Schley County Wildcats will be vying for a “W” in their opening tilt against longtime foes, the Marion County Eagles on August 18. With a good deal of experience behind them and the steady hand of second-year head coach, Darren Alford, guiding them in their quest for a victory over a very competitive opponent, look for a heated and exciting match-up.
The Southland Academy Raiders kicked off their 2017 crusade on Friday, taking on the Southwest Georgia Warriors.
In a strong road showing, the Raiders won their curtain-raiser 30-14.
In the coming weeks, the Raiders will, hopefully, add many, many more wins to their tally and will continue working hard to keep their fans cheering.
These three teams, among many others in the state will be working diligently to ensure that Georgia’s tradition of training quality athletes and sending them out into the world to do amazing things doesn’t fall by the wayside.
Over the next few months, whether from the couch, the bleachers, or the sidelines, a few things are certain.
There will be cheering and celebrations. There will be fans sitting on the edges of their seats and there will be fans throwing their hands in the air in jubilation. There will be a few tears and, possibly, even a few muttered words (the type that fans might not want their mothers to hear them say).
There will be football.
Here’s to another top-notch, injury-free season.
See y’all at the field!