By Marty Gordon
High school football season is finally here and will be played in the fall. After COVID-19 took out last year’s fall matchups and caused lots of masked spring contenders, our student-athletes will have a chance to hear fans in the stands and enjoy a little normalcy in a full-10 game season.
The pandemic forced unprecedented challenges for administrators, coaches, and journalists. Now, there is great optimism as we look to the new season.
Virginia was one of 11 states that moved football to the spring, and there were several competitive teams in a six-game schedule.
Friday night football in the fall is where it should be. All is right with the world as we know it.
High school football is important to all our communities and brings people together to cheer for the home team. I just hope fans will start coming back to the stands. The student-athletes deserve to hear the cheers of the crowd once again.
Across the country, an estimated 1.1 million youngsters played high school football in the last full season, 2019.
The National Federation of High Schools, along with the Virginia High School League, says fans will see little changes this year, but there will be an emphasis of attention by officials. Those items that stand out will be more attention to sportsmanship, intentional grounding, ineligible players downfield, and the line of scrimmage formations.
A drop in student enrollment means at least two area schools are moving to Class 1. Giles will join the Mt. Empire District after leaving the Three Rivers, and Ft. Chiswell will join them in Class 1 Region C.
The Mt. Empire District now includes Giles, Ft. Chiswell, George Wythe, Galax, Auburn, Bland, and Grayson. The MED is starting to resemble the old New River District.
Blacksburg has adjusted its September home game with Lord Botetourt to Thursday as Virginia Tech is scheduled to play North Carolina on a rare Friday night.
Christiansburg’s road game at Abington remains on Friday. Other games that have been moved include Rural Retreat at Eastern Montgomery, Bland at Narrows, and George Wythe at Ft. Chiswell, which will now all be played on Thursday. Radford will travel to Gate City on Saturday afternoon, Sept. 4.
There are some schedule changes that might leave fans scratching their heads. The Christiansburg Blacksburg matchup is one of those. Typically, the Battle of the Burgs has always been the final game of the season. Not this year. Blacksburg will play at Christiansburg on Oct. 8 with Pulaski being the final game of the season for 2021.
Predictions for our local high schools this season:
Auburn 1-9. A new coach and the addition of Giles County to the Mt. Empire District will spell trouble for a team that is dressing fewer than 15 players on a Friday night.
Eastern Montgomery 6-4. This could finally be the year Jordan Stewart finds a way to pick up the sixth win of the season.
Blacksburg 3-7. The Bruins will have several players grow up in a hurry after a miserable spring, but their schedule is loaded with powerhouse programs, meaning wins will be hard to come by.
Christiansburg 8-2. The Blue Demons finally have a team that will contend for a district title with the big dogs like Salem.
Radford 6-4. A new coach with a good Bobcat squad should be able to produce six wins in a depleted Three Rivers District.