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Early look ahead to 2019 HS football season

By DAVID RISLEY - drisley@thecouriertimes.com

Although we are just entering the “dog days of summer,” it’s probably not too early to start looking ahead to the 2019 high school football regular season, which begins just six weeks from Friday on Aug. 23.

This actually is the latest date the regular season can start, as preparation of the IHSAA sports calendar is dependent upon which date Thanksgiving lies. Since Thanksgiving is the latest it can be this year (Thursday, Nov. 28), the regular season starts the latest it can to allow for a nine-week regular season and a six-week tournament that ends on the Friday and Saturday after Thanksgiving.

This should be an interesting campaign, as three of our local football-playing high schools are now in Class A Sectional 47 (Hagerstown, Knightstown and Tri), Shenandoah still is big enough to remain in Class 2A, and New Castle remains in Class 4A.

The 2018 local high school football campaign was a pretty successful one in that three teams won conference championships (Hagerstown and Knightstown tied to the Tri-Eastern Conference title and Shenandoah won the Mid-Eastern Conference championship), and those three plus New Castle had winning records during the regular season. Tri was sub-.500 with a relatively young team.

Because of that success, the vast majority of players named to the 2018 C-T Football All-Area Team were seniors, picked up their diplomas this spring, and are now off to college or pursuing other endeavors, so the competition to be named to the team and be named Player of the Year is wide open.

All five local high school coaches return for another season, which is nice, but some new assistant coaches will join the ranks.

In looking at the upcoming schedules, Shenandoah has the most flexibility in scheduling as it is in a conference (the MEC) with just four football-playing schools at this time, so it has three conference games plus six non-conference games.

The Raiders have taken advantage of this by scheduling some good opponents to open the season. Shenandoah will entertain Indianapolis Scecina (and its wide receiver who has committed to play at IU-Bloomington) on Aug. 23 and will travel to Heritage Christian Aug. 30. Both are Class 2A teams expected to be very good this year.

Other Shenandoah non-conference opponents are TEC schools Centerville, Hagerstown, and Northeastern plus Lapel, a team that has edged the Raiders in the past two sectional championship games after the Raiders clobbered the Bulldogs during the regular season. The Lapel quarterback, who was impressive against Shenandoah in last year’s sectional title game, is back and highly regarded.

New Castle has the same two non-conference opponents it has had the past several seasons (hosting Franklin County on Aug. 23 and traveling to Rushville Aug. 30).

Because the TEC has nine teams, it plays an eight-game conference schedule. The only non-conference game for Hagerstown is Shenandoah, the only non-conference game for Knightstown is nearby rival Eastern Hancock, and the only non-conference game for Tri is against MEC opponent Wes-Del on Saturday, Sept. 14.

The C-T will have its annual preseason football special section in coming out in late August, and the Riz’s Pigskin Picks contest will begin its fifth season featuring games the week of Aug. 23.

Football season, after all, will be here before you know it.