Starting a blank slate

Dan Pippin chirped his whistle and more than 80 North Augusta football players broke into 10 lines.


In groups of 10, they sprinted down the field, crashed into a blocking pad then dashed toward another obstacle.

The sounds of football arrived early Friday night, the first official day of practice for teams across Georgia and South Carolina. Most teams open play in four weeks.

Pippin, entering his third year with the Yellow Jackets, hustled from drill to drill. He said he wanted to show the players how important their off-season work had been.

"Tempo ... we want to stress tempo," Pippin said. "It's an honor to play football for North Augusta -- I hope they can see that."

North Augusta opens Aug. 29 against Midland Valley.

Everyone seems to be optimistic on the first day of practice, even those who have lost 17 in a row.

Richmond Academy will bring that streak into the season and, believe it or not, the Musketeers claim they can contend for a playoff berth in Region 3-AAAA.

"We will judge our season on wins and losses," second-year coach Chris Hughes said.

Hughes said he wasn't allowed to do that a year ago. Back then, he said he was concerned with keeping players around the program. He said 85 players, varsity and JV, stayed the entire season. That's encouraging, as was the junior varsity's 7-1 record and county title.

Richmond Academy's first chance for a win comes Aug. 29 at Westside. The Musketeers haven't beaten the Patriots since 1998, the last time they made the playoffs.

Strom Thurmond coach Lee Sawyer was encouraged by what he saw: virtually no one late and forgiving weather.

One of Sawyer's first messages during Friday's workout: Don't think things are going to be easy down in Class AA, where Strom Thurmond will play only three years removed from winning a state title in Class AAA.

"Just because we're going down in class doesn't mean we're going down to dominate," Sawyer said.

The Rebels lose All-Area Player of the Year Aramis Hillary but return five starters on both sides of the ball.

Reach Matt Middleton at (706) 823-3425 or


AUG. 29

- Aquinas at Treutlen

- Effingham County at Burke County

- Butler at Hephzibah

- Cross Creek at Washington County

- Evans at Greenbrier

- Glenn Hills at Baldwin

- Jefferson County at Laney

- Josey at Statesboro

- Greene County at Lincoln County

- Richmond Academy at Westside

- Glascock County at Warren County

- Banks County at Washington-Wilkes



AUG. 22

- Hunter-Kinard-Tyler at Barnwell

- McCormick at Crescent

- Chapin at Strom Thurmond

AUG. 29

- South Aiken at Aiken

- Denmark-Olar at Blackville-Hilda

- Fox Creek at Silver Bluff

- Midland Valley at North Augusta

- Strom Thurmond at Ridge Spring-Monetta

- McCormick at Wagener-Salley

- Williston-Elko at Barnwell