The final scores won’t count, but the Apalachee and Winder-Barrow football teams are hoping to accomplish quite a bit in their preseason scrimmages Friday night, a week before their 2018 openers.
The Wildcats, in their first year under head coach Tony Lotti, will visit Dunwoody at 7:30 p.m. Friday, while first-year Bulldogg head coach Ed Dudley takes him team over to Wesleyan — where he spent the last two years as offensive coordinator — for a 7:30 p.m. Friday kickoff.
Like all other teams around the state, Apalachee and Winder-Barrow have only been able to conduct fully-padded practices since Aug. 1 and are still trying to figure out some position battles and other aspects ahead of Aug. 17, when the Wildcats host Monroe Area and the Bulldoggs entertain Clarke Central to begin the 2018 season.
“The main thing to look for this week is how our guys handle the adrenaline of an actual game in this heat,” Lotti said. “Once you get out there against someone for the first time, it really ramps up your adrenaline so we’re going to be looking at our conditioning levels.”
“It’s a great chance to evaluate how much depth we have at this point,” Dudley said. “Different guys can tolerate different amounts of snaps so this is going to let us see who can go mostly every snap and who needs more of a break and what we need to work on.”
Both teams have starters virtually locked in at some positions and open battles at others.
The Wildcats return junior AJ Forbing at quarterback, but sophomore Todd Jones will also take some snaps. A talented, but young stable of running backs will also be looking to gain some more experience after a strong showing in the spring scrimmage against East Jackson while the Wildcats are also hoping to nail down some spots on the offensive line and around the defense.
“We’ll get a chance to see how guys play within our system,” Lotti said. “With this being a scrimmage, we don’t have scouting reports to go by and Dunwoody is going to throw some things at our guys that they haven’t seen, so we’ll see how they make adjustments.
“It doesn’t matter as much who starts, but everyone’s goal should be to play as many snaps as possible, and it’s going to be about who can put us in the best position to be successful.”
Meanwhile, the Bulldoggs will be looking to answer some personnel questions about their offensive line, where three vacant spots from last season are up for grabs and at cornerback where juniors Zack Price and Demarcus Beauford are battling for an open spot.
“It’s going to be a very controlled scrimmage where most of the kicking game will not be live,” Dudley said.
“But it’s a good opportunity to scroll through the offense and see what we’ve got. We’ve got several tight battles we need to get on video and see how things are shaking out.”
Meanwhile, Bethlehem Christian Academy is hoping to benefit from two test runs before the regular season begins. Last Friday the Knights competed at a preseason event at Wesleyan and will travel to Providence Christian in Lilburn this week for another round of work for the 2018 season.
BCA only had one day of full contact work last week before taking part in its first Friday night scrimmage. The GISA allowed practice in pads to begin Aug. 1. After practicing that day, heavy rain prevented an on-the-field workout the following day.
“The kids had a true learning experience,” Knights coach Lance Fendley said. “They have an unbelievable team and program. We were outplayed to start with but we eventually got our feet on the ground and settled in.”
As it turned out, Fendley was actually not at the scrimmage last week. As BCA was preparing for the trip, Fendley got a call from his wife who had been in an automobile accident involving a deer near the city of Monticello.
“I got off the bus to help her and was not at the scrimmage,” the coach said.
Fendley in fact was lining up repairs at a body shop Monday morning.
“Fortunately, she was not injured but her vehicle had some damage,” he said.
The coach broke down the scrimmage from last Friday and saw some good things, but also some areas that still need work. The team returned to practice Monday.
“Our offensive line needs some work but I thought our defensive line played well,” Fendley said. “We weren’t able to run the football very well. It’s just something we have to keep working at.”
This Friday, when BCA ventures to Providence Christian, the Knights hope to play in as close to a real game scenario as possible. Fendley said Monday he hoped that would be live special teams work as well, but that he was still ironing out all the details with Providence’s coach.
The regular season is set to kick off Aug. 17 at home against Loganville Christian Academy. Initially scheduled for an off date the following week, the Knights will now host Briarwood Academy on Aug. 24.
Westminster Christian of Augusta recently informed GISA officials it will not field a football team in 2018. That means BCA loses a Region 4-AAA opponent. The Knights will now have their first bye week on Sept. 14. BCA’s region opponents this season will now be John Milledge Academy and Augusta Prep.
The first road game for 2018 will be Aug. 31 in Stockbridge against Community Christian. BCA will then venture to the coast on Sept. 7 for a game against Frederica Academy on St. Simons Island.