Published: 09:04 PM, Sat Jul 28, 2012
Vaughan: Storylines abound for upcoming prep football season
It was 40 years ago this summer that I first walked into the sports department of The Fayetteville Observer as an intern.
I've spent my entire career in journalism there, and Monday, when another high school football season kicks off, I'll join my Observer colleagues spreading out across Cumberland County to watch the first official day of practice for our players and coaches.
The game has changed a great deal since that first summer of 1972.
Back then there was no such thing as organized summer workouts. Coaches said goodbye to their athletes at the end of school in the early summer and hoped to see them come back in the fall on the first day of practice.
Now they practice almost non-stop over the summer, and they have organized seven-on-seven competitions with other schools during the summer months. There are organized workouts even in the offseason. Football has truly become a year-round sport.
So what else is going on as we look ahead to 2012?
Let's take a peek ahead at some of the story lines for the coming season.
Jack Britt vs. Scotland
There is already a game on this year's football schedule that has to be circled in red. It's Sept. 7, when Scotland visits Jack Britt - former Britt coach Richard Bailey's first visit to his old school, where he had been the head coach since it opened in 2000.
Bailey's emotions will have to be running unbelievably high for him that night, and there's also going to be a lot at stake for his replacement, first-year Britt coach Brian Rimpf.
Before he left the job at Britt, Bailey made it no secret he was leaving behind one of the most talented teams he had ever had. A year ago, his team rebounded from a slow start to come within a close loss at Garner of making it to the 4-AA title game.
With most of the star players back from that team, expectations are high for Britt to go at least as far this year. The question is whether can Rimpf put the pieces together as successfully as Bailey did.
Bailey's got something of a rebuilding job at Scotland, as most of the stars of last year's 4-A state title team graduated. But word is there is a lot of young talent coming up from a solid junior varsity team that will need to mature quickly.
Either way, Sept. 7 is going to be an interesting night at the Boneyard.
Village's turning point?
After three years, Village Christian Academy is still seeking its first varsity victory.
Randy Lewis, last year's head coach, has returned to the public school ranks as an assistant at Cape Fear. Len Matz, who headed the school's JV program, is moving up to try and get the program into the win column this season.
The main problem Village has been battling is numbers. For the most part, the Village roster has been running in the mid to low 20s, which means most of its players rarely come off the football field and find themselves switching from offense to defense to special teams with little chance to get a break on the sidelines.
Hopefully, Matz will find a cure for that and convince a few more members of the student body to give football a try.
Another cure for Village's ills could be the schedule. A look at this year's slate reveals it could be a little less brutal, so chances are the Knights might find themselves in more competitive situations.
Either way, hopefully there's going to be a light at the end of the Village tunnel, and borrowing a phrase from the great Lou Holtz, "let it not be the headlamp of an oncoming train."
Bulldogs bid farewell
The real sting won't hit until it happens next year, but this is going to be a sad season for Terry Sanford as the Bulldogs bid a slow farewell to competing at the 4-A level.
This time next season, they'll be getting ready to drop down to 3-A competition as part of the N.C. High School Athletic Association realignment.
In some ways, it could be a really good thing for the Bulldogs. Being matched up against schools closer in size is likely to make them more competitive in many sports, especially sports such as football, where numbers are so important.
But it's going to be a real culture shock for Terry Sanford fans, who will have to travel greater distances to games outside of Cumberland County and not just drive a few miles to Pine Forest or South View or E.E. Smith.
And it's going to mean fewer visitors in the bleachers when the new teams come to town because they don't want to make the trip into Fayetteville.
Either way, the Bulldog faithful need to enjoy this last year in the Mid-South Conference, and brace for the changes to come next fall.
Scholastic sports editor Earl Vaughan Jr. can be reached at email@example.com or 486-3519.