The sore muscles and newness of those initial pre-season practices are behind them; the workman-like preparation for the scrimmages are past; and the typical one-week cadence toward a regular-season game has now begun.
For the East Bladen and West Bladen football teams, their weekly versions of Friday Night Lights begins on Aug. 21.
It hardly seems possible that it’s been something like nine months since the Eagles were knocked out of the playoffs by a gritty Farmville Central team at Lenon Fisher Stadium and the Knights were knocked out of the playoffs by a scuffle that resulted in ejections during the regular season.
But the 2015 season is now upon us, and optimism is high — as it should be.
In most southern states, communities love God, family and football — and there is often debate on the order. Bladen County is o different.
High school football remains a true bastion of amateur athletics performed in a mini-spectacle every Friday night. There’s music, food and competition. And sometimes, the littlest guy still has a chance to get in the game and earn a few well-deserved cheers for all those hours of practice in the August heat.
What else? Well …
We like seeing the light standards at stadiums glowing in the distance as dusk spins toward nightfall.
And the background sounds of a marching band rehearsing amid the shrill whistle of coaches as we approach the gate.
It’s hard to beat the sight of a stadium’s turf, freshly mowed, and sectioned by impossibly white lines marking the yardage and goal lines.
And then there’s the smell of hot dogs cooking and popcorn popping.
We love that a high school team’s boosters roll up their sleeves and plop chili on those hot dogs as opposed to college boosters who plop their names on the bottoms of checks.
We also note that some parents in the stands are there only to see the band or the cheerleaders. We love that, too.
And save some sympathy for the refs, too. After all, they have other jobs by day. Most are calling games on Friday because they just love the game. And it earns some extra money, too.
We’ll bet that someone you know is probably working on the chain crew.
In the dog days of August, high school football is the first reminder that fall — and cooler weather — is ahead.
But mostly we like that the players are all kids you either know, or you know their mamas and daddies, aunts and uncles, grandmas and grandpas. They live in the neighborhood, hang out at the fast-food restaurant or work part-time at a drive-thru window.
There’s a lot to love about local high school football, and each of us has our reasons. Whatever yours may be, we hope you’ll act on those reasons and get yourself a seat in the East Bladen or West Bladen stands this fall. Your support will go a long way toward the success of the players on the field.