GAINESVILLE -- Starting tonight, high school football coaches across north Georgia will begin testing their squads against each other in preseason scrimmages. (See below for a full list of area scrimmages.)
"I'm looking for attitude; I'm looking for the right mentality," North Hall football coach Bob Christmas said. "It's a scrimmage; I know kids are going to screw up because they're still learning. What I want to see is, when they do screw up, who hangs their heads and who fights through the adversity. I want to see who we can count on."
This year's preseason contest carries a little extra weight for the Trojans -- not because of what's happening on the field, rather what is happening outside the lines.
While most programs are traveling across the county, or even across the state for scrimmage scenarios, North Hall will journey north to face Amherst County High in central Virginia.
"We wanted to do something fun and different for the kids," said Christmas, whose Trojans will embark on Thursday and return Saturday. "We'll be taking two charter buses and staying at the Holiday Inn in downtown Lynchburg for two nights. It's going to give the kids a memory to last a lifetime."
***We at Access North Georgia are ready to jump into high school football with both feet. With that in mind tune into WDUN AM 550/102.9 FM at 6 p.m. on Aug. 17 as High School Sports Unlimited co-hosts Katie B. Davis and Morgan Lee bring you Friday Countdown, a preview leading you into the 2012 football campaign that will coincide with the launching of our special online football preview on Access North Georgia.com. The online preview will feature in-depth stories on 29 area teams, as well as video interviews, schedules and all the information you need before the campaign kicks off.***
There will also be a hands-on history lesson for North Hall players, who on Friday will travel to Appomattox Court House National Historical Park, where offensive line coach Tony Wagner, an AP teacher at North Hall, will discuss the events at Appomattox that saw the conclusion of the Civil War and the re-uniting of our nation.
"It's just going to be a fun time with the kids with some history and football," Christmas said.
The journey should also provide a stern test of the Trojans' football abilities, as Amherst is one of the top football teams in central Virginia.
"In the past few years they've won two state titles and played for two more," Christmas said. "They have great athletes. They always have."
After coaching in Virginia -- at both the high school and collegiate levels -- for 19 years Christmas should know. And it was his ties to the area, and the coach at Amherst (Cecil Phillips), that led to the scheduling of the scrimmage.
"(Phillips) was an assistant of mine at Bainbridge, but he's from Virginia," Christmas said. "And I was at a clinic with him and we began talking about trying to set this up."
North Hall already had a scrimmage set up, as did Amherst, but the two schools successfully re-arranged their schedules. From that point it was up to the Trojans to begin raising money for the trip -- something North Hall players did by selling coupon cards.
"We're all excited about it; we're ready to get up there and play," Trojans senior lineman Avery Easton said. "It's increased the intensity at practice here; we're pumped."
Fellow senior, placekicker Modesto Cruz, agreed.
"This kind of feels like something more than a high school game; it's definitely cool," Cruz said. "And the game is definitely going to get us prepared. We've got a tough schedule, and they're (Amherst) going to be a good team."
Christmas believes the prospect of the special trip has provided a boost to what can often be a slow few days of practice.
"This being the first full week of school, the kids sometimes feel it after sitting in a classroom all day and then coming out here to practice," Christmas said. "But we've had three really good days. And that all plays into what we wanted out of this."
It certainly doesn't seem as if intensity will be a question for the Trojans come Friday night. And while other area programs may not get the chance to trek to another state, the opportunity to hit someone other than a teammate should provide plenty of motivation.
SCRIMMAGES FOR AREA FOOTBALL TEAMS (includes start time if available)
East Hall at Chestatee, 7 p.m.
Monticello at East Jackson, 7 p.m.
Morgan County at Jefferson, 7:30 p.m.
Berkmar at Buford, 7 p.m.
Walnut Grove at West Hall, 7 p.m.
Gainesville at Creekview, 7:30 p.m.
Elbert County at Apalachee 7:30 p.m.
Towns County at Dawson County, 7:30 p.m.
Pickens at Fannin County, 7:30 p.m.
North Gwinnett at Stephenson, 7:30 p.m.
Parkview at Mill Creek, 7:30 p.m.
Riverwood at North Forsyth, 7:30 p.m.
Winder-Barrow at South Forsyth, 7:30 p.m.
Habersham Central at Hart County
Lakeview Academy at Mt. Pisgah
North Hall at Amherst County (Va.)
Jackson County at Athens Academy
St. Pius at Stephens County
Banks County at Lumpkin County, 7 p.m.
Union County at White County
Rabun County at Hebron Christian, 7:30 p.m.
Lassiter at Flowery Branch, 7:30 p.m.