By Jeff Nations - firstname.lastname@example.org
Hard to believe, but football season officially got underway on Monday morning with many high school programs across the state starting practice.
Tooling around Shenandoah County on Monday afternoon heading from one practice to another, I thought it might be time to start plotting what games I might like to attend this coming season. It's a tough call on most Fridays, and getting off the sports desk is always a neat trick, but here's a hypothetical wish-list if I were to have my pick of games to cover from week-to-week throughout the year.
Disclaimer: I don't have a son, nor any children currently in the school systems of Frederick, Warren or Shenandoah counties. In other words, I'm about as neutral a party as you're likely to find interested in these particular teams. Here goes:
Week 1 (Friday, Aug. 24)
In most cases, let's toss out the road games even though Sherando at Martinsburg (W.Va.) is a relatively short drive and an extremely compelling matchup. Skyline hosts always tough Musselman (W.Va.) and Central greets Broadway in a limited night of action.
The obvious pick here, though, is Stonewall Jackson at Strasburg. County rivalry game, right off the bat.
Week 2 (Friday, Aug. 31)
Super matchup in Warren County's home opener, as the Wildcats host Clarke County in a nice regional game.
My pick is the Shenandoah County rivalry, Part 2 -- Central at Stonewall Jackson.
Week 3 (Friday, Sept. 7)
More interesting regional games to consider. Stonewall Jackson hits the road to take on Clarke County, and Strasburg heads south to visit Page County. Skyline at Fauquier should be a battle, and Sherando finally makes it back to Arrowhead Stadium to host Washington (W.Va.).
I'll go with Warren County at Central, a matchup of playoff teams from last season.
Saturday bonus football: Sidwell Friends (D.C.) visits R-MA, and Bishop O'Connell is in Woodstock to take on MMA in a pair of day games.
Week 4 (Friday, Sept. 14)
Think of it as the calm before the storm of district matchups. Home games include George Mason at Warren County and Luray at Strasburg.
I'll go with Brentsville at Skyline, though, because in the fantasy scenario I haven't seen the Hawks yet and want to see what promises to be a strong Heath Gilbert-coached squad in action.
Week 5 (Friday, Sept. 21)
Lots and lots of choices, even without Warren County (at Moorefield, W.Va.) and Central (at George Mason). Covenant School is at MMA, East Rockingham visits Stonewall, Skyline opens Northwestern District play at James Wood and Sherando hosts yet another West Virginia school in Jefferson.
I'll take the slight road trip to Berryville this week, though, to see Strasburg rekindle their annual Bull Run District rivalry game with the Eagles.
Week 6 (Friday, Sept. 28)
Plenty of home games to pick from, so I'll pass on Stonewall at Buffalo Gap and Skyline at Kettle Run. Fredericksburg Christian at MMA is a day game, so I could almost catch that and then a night matchup. There are some good ones, as Strasburg hosts William Monroe and Central welcomes Manassas Park in Bull Run District action.
I'll take Warren County at James Wood in an intriguing non-district matchup.
Saturday bonus football: Quantico visits R-MA in a noon matchup.
Week 7 (Friday, Oct. 5)
Only three home games to choose from, with Stonewall hosting Shenandoah District rival Riverheads and Millbrook visiting Skyline in another district matchup.
Hard to pass up James Wood at Sherando, though, as both a pivotal Northwestern District and county rivalry matchup.
Week 8 (Friday, Oct. 12)
Plenty of good football in the area this week, with Skyline hosting Washington (W.Va.), Fauquier at Warren in an Evergreen District matchup and Manassas Park at Strasburg in another Bull Run clash.
I'll take Clarke County at Central in the other big Bull Run District matchup of the night. These two teams tend to produce memorable games.
Saturday bonus football: Sherando visits the Handley Bowl to take on the Judges in a day game.
Week 9 (Friday, Oct. 19)
Three local games to choose from, with Handley visiting Skyline in a district clash and Sherando hosting always-tough Liberty in non-district action.
It's high time to see the Generals again, I think, as Stonewall hosts Shenandoah District rival Page County.
Saturday bonus football: I might well have gone with this one on Friday, as R-MA hosts MMA in a renewal of a dormant rivalry.
Week 10 (Friday, Oct. 26)
Stonewall hosts Stuarts Draft, Warren County greets Kettle Run and Central welcomes Madison County -- all are district games, all could be important for playoff implications.
But Skyline at Sherando is a game I wouldn't want to miss, as the Northwestern District rivals face off at Arrowhead Stadium.
Week 11 (Friday, Nov. 2)
Sherando at Millbrook is a super county and district rivalry, while MMA hosting Perry Street Prep is a day game at least.
My one and only cop-out -- a tie between Skyline at Warren County (fierce cross-town rivalry game) and another county skirmish as Strasburg visits Central. Ask me in 10 weeks, and I'll know where I want to go.
Saturday bonus football: Bishop Walsh visits R-MA in the Yellow Jackets' season finale.
Hope you're ready for some football -- I certainly am.
-- Sports editor Jeff Nations can be reached at email@example.com