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Private schools kicking off season

The monotonous drills of spring training, the summer work in the weight room, the lessons learned from 7-on-7s and the grueling hours in the sun during pre season camp and two a days show up for the cash in tonight as the season cranks up for real.

To be more specific, AISA (private schools) starts their regular season tonight, a good number actually started on Thursday night. AHSAA (public schools) get it going on next week. Most if not all of the public schools will participate in pre season jamborees either last night (Demopolis vs. Thomasville) or tonight.

The value of the jamboree is that the guys have been knocking heads against each other for about two weeks now and they are ready to hit somebody else. The coaches have the last minute opportunity to make personnel decisions and/or changes and to fine tune their defensive schemes and offensive attack.

It&8217;s a game situation for the kids. Despite the fact that the score may not count and the team and individual stats are meaningless it&8217;s still &8216;pedal to the metal&8217;. If a team (or individual player) brings a nonchalant attitude to the stadium and he goes up against a motivated, fire breathing foe. It may not be the score, but, rather, a safety issue that comes into play for &8216;the loafers&8217;. I believe when the stadiums start filling up with fans, the cheerleaders begin doing their thing and the band hits that first note the adrenaline will flow like a surging river for the guys on the field.

Opening games are always huge regardless of the opponent.

Why you ask? Simply because you can&8217;t go undefeated unless you take down all the teams on your schedule and that begins with the first game.

The first game can also serve as an indicator of things to come. An experienced squad will focus on the little things that they can improve on. On the flip side, a young, experienced team (like Demopolis last year) can expose weak points that with work can be corrected.

Key games for teams in our area include:

Southern Academy at Tuscaloosa Academy

Last year Southern scuffed up TA 69-0 in Greensboro as they rolled on to their third championship in a row. This year the whipping could be even worse for the Knights of Tuscaloosa. The SA Cougars lost a good number of seniors from last years champions but the bad news for TA is the nucleus of that team is still in tact.

Shaun Bonds will load up some 50-plus guys on buses and roll north. This is a classic example of success breeding success. A 50 man roster for a AA private school is a rare exception. In fact that would be an accomplishment for quite a few of the 3A public schools.

The Cougars have an open date next week since Marion Schools dropped their program leaving a void in Southern&8217;s schedule. Coach Bonds contacted Shelby Academy who also was open on Aug. 31 about making a date but apparently Shelby wanted none of that action.

Cornerstone at Sumter

This is a rare game where teams open their season against regional opponents. Its payback time for Sumter. Last year the Eagles traveled to Shelby County and got plucked 28-21. It was a loss that was big because not only was it the opener but later proved to be the difference in keeping them out of the playoffs. It will be the first of two home games in a row for Sumter but hopefully nobody is looking beyond tonight&8217;s match up. This year the Eagles are feeling pretty good about their chances but reality will supersede feelings when the opening kickoff lifts off tonight.

South Choctaw at Warrior

South Choctaw is the defending AISA state champ. Last year they skunked Warrior 48-0. Once again as is Sumter&8217;s situation, this is an opening match up of regional teams. Matter of fact, the first three games for SCA will be regional games (Warrior, Cornerstone and Sumter).

Eutaw based Warrior Academy will have their collective hands full tonight slowing down South Choctaw.

Pickens at Marengo

The pesky and powerful Pickens Pirates (try saying that fast) come to Linden looking for some beef. In 2006 at home in Carrolton, the AAA buccaneers had their way with Marengo 47-13. However, MA bounced back to ultimately make the playoffs. Pickens got whacked in their next two outings after the Marengo game (Bessemer and Macon East) and did not make the post season.

MA is seeking a return to the glory years where the Longhorns were one of, if not, the premier private school football powerhouse. Coach Jesse Little and his herd are restless; they want redemption against the &8216;Swashbucklers&8217; from up north. This could very well be one of the better games in AISA tonight.

Next week, the public schools kick it off in their season openers. Sidebar note: Prattville defending 6A champ plays Georgia champ, North Gwinnett at Crampton Bowl in Montgomery.

Sweet Water opens at home against Thomasville in a televised high school game.

Demopolis opens on the road at Sumter County (Note: game will be broadcast on 104.9 FM and streamed over demopolislive.com starting at 6:30).

Until next time, play hard; play for fun; play to win.

Mike Grayson is contributing columnist to The Times.