Pioneers invade Jefferson County for season opener
SHENANDOAH JUNCTION – The legions in Jefferson’s band march in and play pre-game songs and the National Anthem.
Concession stand aromas and cold soft drinks beckon the crowd to come their way.
Fans greet each other and converse about another football season.
The lights give the game its many shadows.
And then both Jefferson and visiting Millbrook enter to the blare of music and the cheering from both sidelines.
It’s the opener for the 2017 season, Jefferson coming off a third straight fall that produced a trip to the playoffs, Millbrook coming off a school-record 10-0 regular season that included a beginning where the Pioneers defeated the Cougars.
Millbrook broke away to a 42-20 win a year ago, and then averaged nearly 45 points a game in gliding to an unbeaten regular season that included a 42-41 victory over Sherando.
Jefferson recovered well enough from its season-opening loss to again reach West Virginia’s playoffs.
Tonight’s 7 p.m. start will see both teams feature a horde of new faces in their starting lineups.
The Cougars still have Jeffrey Gaskins, Jeremy Beach, Nick Longerbeam, Jevon Lang and Jacob Biller.
Millbrook comes on the road and brings with it a significant list of experienced “skill position” players, but the Pioneers graduated a number of offensive and defensive linemen and linebackers.
Isaac Brown, Alec Rudolph, Noah Robinson and Ricky Timbrook could all help the Pioneers score the same scary point totals they had in 2016.
Everything is new. Yet, everything is old.
Football games are usually won in the early season with conditioning, with the fewer mistakes and gruesome penalties and often by untainted special teams that don’t butcher kickoff returns, extra points, punts and punt coverage.
Players go both ways. Those individuals usually are the most trustworthy and most experienced. Quarterback play is more magnified. Scripts aren’t necessarily followed in the season opener. Troubles and turnovers must be forgotten or they can continue on through the second half.
Names and numbers have to be memorized. Jefferson’s halftime show by its classy band might be performed with more precision than is the football game.
The season is here. The eclipse isn’t even much of a topic of conversation any longer.
It’s 2017 high school football. It’s the “50-50” raffle – the nachos and liquid cheese, the drum line, the optimism of what could lie ahead – and, hopefully, an injury-free game.