Summertime for most people means sunshine, vacations and relaxation. For devout fans of football, it means our favorite time of the year is just around the corner.
Soon enough, football players big and small will lace up their cleats, strap on their shoulder pads and buckle their chin straps to head out onto the fresh cut, green grass fields to begin their seasons.
For football players, coaches and fans, summer means a new beginning is on its way. It means every team’s record is 0-0, giving way to endless possibilities for the season to come.
The first official fall sports practice for high schools in North Carolina was Aug. 1, and schools are allowed to scrimmage each other beginning Aug. 10, but some of our area’s biggest preseason matchups will be on Aug. 16, a week before Week 1, at the Marine Federal Credit Union Football Jamboree, hosted by the Jacksonville-Onslow Sports Commission, at Northside High School in Jacksonville.
Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune’s home team, the Lejeune High School Devil Pups, along with Jacksonville, Northside, Dixon, Southwest, White Oak, Swansboro, Croatan, Richlands and East Carteret are among the teams scheduled to participate in the exhibition. The first games will start at 5:30 p.m. and the last pair of matchups begin at 9:15 p.m.
LHS will take on Jones Senior and Princeton in back to back scrimmages beginning at 6:45 p.m. and ending around 8 p.m. The Devil Pups will look to turn things around in 2019 after going winless last fall.
LHS will see Jones Senior again in its season-opener in Trenton on Aug. 23. The Devil Pups will then head to Spring Creek in Seven Springs on Aug. 30 before traveling to Lakewood the following Friday.
Retired U.S. Marine Jonathon Delle replaces Master Gunnery Sgt. James Gardiner at head coach.
Other area high school teams to keep an eye on this season are the Jacksonville Cardinals of the Coastal 3A Conference and the Southwest Stallions of the Coastal 8 1A/2A Conference.
Last season, the Cardinals went 11-2 and made it all the way to the 3A state championship game where they lost to Charlotte Catholic 17-14.
The Stallions made a deep playoff run in 2018 as well, losing in the 2A state semifinals to Northeastern in Elizabeth City by a score of 47-36.
Southwest will host Jacksonville in week one of the 2019 season on Aug. 23 in what is expected to be one of the area’s best games of the season.
Richlands was another local area team within the vicinity of Camp Lejeune that had a winning record in 2018.
The collegiate season begins Saturday, Aug. 24 with a marquee matchup between the University of Florida and the University of Miami in Orlando, Florida. Later that night, Arizona visits Hawaii.
The defending National Champion Clemson Tigers will host the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets Thursday, Aug. 29 to highlight the second day of the season.
A full slate of games are scheduled that weekend through Monday, Sept. 2 to officially kick off the first weekend of college football.
Auburn versus Oregon at the Dallas Cowboys’ AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, Saturday, Aug. 31 is one of the most intriguing matchups of opening weekend.
Also that Saturday, North Carolina will face off against South Carolina at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte at 3:30 p.m. in the Battle of the Carolinas. The East Carolina Pirates will travel to Raleigh to take on the Wolfpack at noon.
The NFL preseason begins Aug. 1 with the Atlanta Falcons taking on the Denver Broncos in the Hall of Fame Game.
Following four weeks of preseason football, the NFL regular season will officially get underway on Sept. 5 with the Green Bay Packers and the Chicago Bears in primetime.
So for all my die-hard football fans out there that can’t wait for games to begin, take a deep breath, relax and know that our beloved game will return to us in no time
Notable Season-Opening Games
Jacksonville @ Southwest Onslow, Aug. 23
Lejeune @ Jones Senior, Aug. 23
Florida vs. Miami (FL), Aug. 24 (Orlando, FL)
Georgia Tech @ Clemson, Aug. 29
Auburn vs. Oregon, Aug. 31 (Arlington, TX)
North Carolina vs. South Carolina, Aug. 31 (Charlotte, NC)
East Carolina @ N.C. State, Aug. 31