Well, the helmets are shined, the uniforms laundered and the cleats sharpened — in a manner of speaking.
This Friday, Jackson’s Red Devils will be taking on the Bulldogs of Mary Persons High School in what has come to be known as the Backyard Brawl, a long-standing rivalry between two fierce competitors.
It’s a time when those loyal to both sides can come together in one stadium to watch their favorite athletes go toe to toe. It’s a time when players, coaches and supporters can show their hometown pride and be reminded that spirited competition has benefits on and off the field.
Football season is just getting under way, and whether the players are relative veterans hoping to catch the eye of college recruiters, or are taking the field for the first time in regular-season high school play, being a part of a team like the Red Devils means being part of something greater than one’s self.
For the athletes, it means having an opportunity to learn, grow, excel and develop leadership. Coach Mike Parris and his staff are always on the lookout for young leaders to step up and exhibit maturity and excellence on and off the field.
This time of year is also when all the hard work the Red Devils put in during the off-season bears fruit. From hitting the weights to two-a-days, the team will soon find out how that work, how that sweat, how that soreness and how that fatigue pays off.
For the coaches, the start of a new season means getting to see their efforts pay off as well. The time they’ve taken to develop young players, mentor the team’s leaders and polish the playbook will prove to have been time well spent not only as the team looks for touchdowns, but as the young men on the field, in the trenches so to speak, begin to see the value in all of their own hard work and what their coaches and mentors have passed on to them.
For the coaches, it has to be rewarding to see those young men shine on the field in front of a hometown crowd, rooting for their success today and in the future, and to know they’ve played a role.
It’s a coach’s job not only to bring home wins, but to recognize the potential in young men and women, and make sure they understand that with hard work and determination, that potential can be realized in perhaps unimaginable ways.
The start of this year’s football season also means, for the fans, 10 Friday nights in the bleachers (maybe more) cheering on their sons, brothers, cousins, nephews and the kid next door. It means letting the cheerleaders and the Red Regiment Band set the tone and the soundtrack for the spirit and mood in the stadium and showing support for the work they’ve done to entertain and lift the crowd.
For the fans, the season also means connecting again with neighbors you might not have seen in the stands since last November. The start of the football season means funnel cakes and hot dogs, Red Devils T-shirts and seat cushions, and Saturday-morning discussions of what went right and wrong in the game the night before.
During high school football season, everybody comes away with a win.
Michael Davis is the managing editor of the Jackson Progress-Argus.