Thursday night marked the beginning of an annual rite of fall, one every bit as ingrained into our collective consciousness in the South as pumpkin patches before Halloween and the story of the Mayflower at Thanksgiving.
That rite is known as high school football, and it will be played on high school fields from Valdosta to Atlanta to Macon to Richmond Hill and Pembroke. It’s a rough and tumble sport, but it’s one that – at its best – makes men out of boys and can bring an entire community together in pursuit of a common dream.
And in this age where scandal seems to be rocking college football programs left and right, high school football has in a sense become the last truly amateur version of the game we have left.
What’s more, if you look at the top high school football programs in Georgia, you’ll find they often represent some of the top all-around schools in the state as well. That’s because successful sports programs – and football, in particular – add to a sense of school spirit while also instilling the importance of teamwork, time management and hard work. There’s a reason that many university presidents in the South refer to college football as the “front porch” of their institutions.
Indeed, good sports programs are as important to a school as strong academics.
Still, there are those who take the game too seriously, and that’s unfortunate. Let’s all remember that those who play the game are anywhere from 14 to 18 years old and their coaches are teachers first. Let’s expect fair play and good sportsmanship from our teams, but let’s also demand it of ourselves and our fellow fans.
Finally, good luck to both the Richmond Hill High School Wildcats and the Bryan County High School Redskins. Here’s hoping you both have great seasons.