Although the 2013 season is a week away — Pleasant Valley travels to Jacksonville next Thursday — players and fans will get their fix starting Thursday with preseason jamboree games that extend through Saturday for local teams.
But while teams hit the field for the first time this season to face another team, several local schools have chosen not to play a jamboree game.
“There are certainly disadvantages to not having a jamboree game because it gives you a chance to fix some problems and game experience for the guys before the regular season,” Donoho coach Shannon Felder said. “There are a lot of things you miss by not playing a jamboree game, but when you have a small team you have to weigh the risk factors.”
One of the largest factors is a risk of injury, something Felder had happen years ago, causing him to choose to keep Donoho from playing in a fall jamboree since then. Felder said the Falcons will have normal practices today and Friday instead.
“I don’t know how much it’s hurt us or helped us,” Felder said. “We’ve got 18 varsity players, and if you think about you’ve got offense, defense, punt team, punt return, kickoff and kickoff return, so when you lose one guy for us, he’s a guy that plays all phases of the game. You’re replacing a guy in six or seven different areas.”
While an injury would be a huge setback for Donoho and also Jacksonville Christian, which has around 20 players, the two Class 1A schools aren’t the only teams that chose to not participate in fall jamborees.
A year after Clay Central’s first game in school history came with an impressive 25-13 victory over Beauregard in the Champions Challenge, first-year coach Kris Herron has scheduled the Blue-Red Game, an intra-squad scrimmage, for Friday, which he said is more of a “personal philosophy.”
“Some of us are in different roles this year and it gives the coaching staff a chance to get those filled with a little bit of game atmosphere,” Herron said. “We’re going to have our band and cheerleaders there and kind of go through our whole pregame routine after school, have our pregame meal and kind of work through that. It gives everyone in the program a chance to see how a Friday night will feel and how it should go.”
For the teams that are playing jamboree games, the top benefit was unanimous: It gives teams a chance to see where they stand against others.
For White Plains and Alexandria, they’ll get a chance to see where they stand against teams that had a lot of success in 2012. The Wildcats face Class 2A power Woodland, which advanced to the state quarterfinals last year.
“We play it like a regular game and everyone treats it like a regular game,” White Plains coach Heath Harmon said. “Then you turn around and the next week you play a four quarter game. There’s nothing wrong with playing a half, but you don’t get the conditioning.”
While White Plains and Woodland leave their starters in the entire game, truly approaching it like a regular-season game, Alexandria will have a different strategy with Oneonta on Friday. The Valley Cubs will play starters the first half of the game and let reserves get experience the rest of the game against the defending Class 4A runner-up.
Tucker said last year’s score against Oneonta was slightly misleading after the Valley Cubs won the second half with its B-team playing but dropped the first with its starters. At the same time, the coach said Alexandria is looking only to get three things out of the game, with the winning score not being one of them.
“We play to get the first-game jitters out of the way," he said. "I also think there’s so much improvement between the first and second game, so the jamboree kind of counts as the first game. The third good thing is playing a team like Oneonta gives you a great evaluation. Sometimes there are games that you can win while making mistakes, but with Oneonta we’ll really know where we stand.”
While White Plains and Alexandria face fierce competition from two of the top teams from respective classifications, Ranburne and Ohatchee are taking a different approach toward their jamboree games.
The common option of playing one teams is normally available, but the Bulldogs and Indians will compete against two teams Friday, playing two quarters against each.
Ranburne coach Chad Young said the Bulldogs usually only play county-rival Cleburne County, but since Bowdon, Ga., which is right across the state line, didn’t have an opponent, Young let them join in.
“It’s kind of unusual, though, because Georgia has a rule that teams can’t play more than one school in a jamboree,” Young said. “Since they couldn’t play us and Heflin a half each, Heflin agreed to just play us a half.”
The format Ranburne chose is playing Bowdon a half then Cleburne County a half. While Young says each team would usually substitute regularly as the game wore on, he’s not sure Cleburne County and Bowdon will substitute players as freely since they’re only playing two quarters.
Young compared Bowdon’s speed to that of Class 2A, Region 6 opponents Vincent, Fultondale and Wellborn. And yet, preparing for speed is only half the battle.
“Both teams are different in a lot of ways so it’s kind of like we’re preparing for two different teams,” Young said. “Both of them play different offenses and defenses, but typically we don’t prepare much and we only look at ourselves.”
Although no one will win a region or state championship over the next three days, football is back in Calhoun County and the surrounding area. Electricity will be in the air all over the state despite records not changing from 0-0. Instead, its time for teams to have their last chance to have a tune up before games begin to matter.
“I think it’s a no-lose situation,” Harmon said. “Of course we want to compete at everything we do, but if we don’t play well that loss doesn’t count, but it’s still valuable for film and to get better.
"Then again, if we win, anytime you beat Woodland you’ve done something. There are a ton of teams on Woodland’s schedule that aren’t going to beat them. Either way, we’ll have momentum because either we competed or we know what we need to do to get better.”
Sports Writer Brandon Miller: 256-235-3575. On Twitter @bmiller_star..
Thursday, Aug. 22
Jacksonville at Piedmont – 7 p.m.
Sylacauga at Anniston – 6 p.m.
Pleasant Valley at Weaver – 6 p.m.
Saks vs. Cedar Bluff/Gaylesville (at Sand Rock) – 7 p.m.
Friday, Aug. 23
Woodland at White Plains – 7 p.m.
Oneonta at Alexandria – 7 p.m.
Ohatchee vs. TC Central/Fayetteville (at B.B. Comer) – 6:50 p.m.
Oxford at Oak Mountain – 7 p.m.
Handley at Randolph County – 7 p.m.
Cleburne County/Bowden, Ga. at Ranburne – 7 p.m.
Saturday, Aug. 24
Wellborn vs. Straughn (Cramton Bowl, Montgomery) – 5 p.m.