For many Madison County Red Raiders, football never left. There was winter weightlifting, spring practices, summer seven-on-seven passing drills, camps and the August days of cracking pads in brutal heat.
That work, that sweat equity, is all part of the game — part of the long countdown to fall Fridays.
That countdown ends tomorrow (Friday), when the Danielsville squad will finally run through the season-opening banner at Flowery Branch. That means it’s time for woodwinds and drums, pom poms and cheers.
Football on Fridays carries its own character, something different than the games on Saturdays or Sundays, both in the atmosphere and the games themselves.
Red Raider head coach Randell Owens offers this assessment of game planning at the different levels.
“High school is totally different from college and the NFL,” said Owens. “In the NFL, here’s my system and I’m going to draft or trade for people to run my system. In college, I’m going to recruit players that fit my system. Paul Johnson ain’t going to recruit the same kind of folks that Mark Richt is. Paul Johnson might take linemen that might get passed over by most D1 schools, because he needs mobility.”
Owens said high school football requires coaches to shift schemes to suit available personnel.
“In high school, you scour the halls,” said Owens. “You recruit what’s there, the best you can get that’s there. And then you sit down and say, ‘What system can I use that best utilizes the talent available to me and the practice time available to me?’”
Madison County, which finished 1-9 last year, is aiming for improvement in the brutal Region 8-AAAA, which features stalwarts such as Clarke County and Flowery Branch.
So what’s the plan of attack?
Well, Red Raider fans can expect to see a mix of offensive game planning in 2011, some standard, drop-back, pro-style attacks when one quarterback is in the game, and a more option-oriented attack when another is behind center.
“If Trae (Burton) is in there at QB, we’ll run the option game,” said Owens. “With Alex (Jordan), he can’t run the option, but he’s got pretty good experience seeing the field. That’s two totally different guys and we’re trying to mesh it to fit the system and the talent.”
Owens said both quarterbacks will get playing time.
Of course, Burton won’t just line up behind center. The athletic senior will touch the ball at running back and receiver, too. He’ll even serve as the team’s punter.
“He’s going to be on the field a good bit working somewhere,” said Owens. “Is he quarterback, wingback or do we have him flexed out at wide receiver?”
The Red Raider backfield will also include Keidrick Curry at running back. Trey Carruth will get carries. Others who may get some action include Malik Freeman at wingback and slotback and Marquez Henson at fullback.
Red Raider receivers will include Cody Harbin and Caleb McCain. Freshman T.J. Skelton will likely get on the field.
At tight end, Hayes Hill will share time with Bo Hardman and Trey Adams.
“They’ll all work at tight end and won’t come off the field on defense,” said Owens. “We’ll rest them on offense by rotating them.”
Up front, the Red Raiders will have Tyler Colquitt at strong guard, Andrew McCannon at center, Austin Dean at strong tackle and Chase Boyett at split tackle. Others who will likely get time on the offensive line include: Levi Crumley, Blake West, Matt Bauhcum, William Faulkner, Harley Whitehead and Shamari Newton.
On the defensive line, Matt Bauhcum will start at tackle, with Tyler Colquitt starting at noseguard. Bryson Barton, Troy Tittle, Austin Dean and Blake West will play in the interior, while Matt Pieper, Steven Resby, Shamari Newton, Andrew McCannon and Chase Boyett will likely see action at defensive end.
Trey Adams and Hayes Hill will start at linebacker for the Red Raiders with Michael Burden and Dustin Howard also vying for playing time.
Caleb McCain will return at cornerback, with Cody Harbin, Kardashian Johnson and Staquavious Mack also in the mix at corner.
Bo Hardman will start at safety, with Tad Wilson, Chase Cabe and Andrew Lindsey seeing action. Trey Carruth and Keidrick Curry will play at rover.
Sophomore soccer players Joey Sandres and Joey Espinoza are competing at the kicker position.
“The sky is the limit with them, but they’re starting from scratch,” said Owens. “They’re both athletic kickers. The biggest thing is getting the snap, hold, kick combination — getting it kicked before the rush gets there.”
And that rush officially starts Aug. 26.
Madison County and Flowery Branch will kick off at 7:30 p.m. in Flowery Branch, when that long Friday night countdown will finally hit zero.