It’s understandable to say the prep football season starts tonight.
The thing is, however, is it doesn’t.
It started over a month ago, when teams suited up for the Kickoff Classic. Or if you want to wax poetically, the 2009 prep football season started the second the ‘08 prep football season ended.
Tonight, let’s just say things kick up a notch. It’s district openers for Manatee, Lakewood Ranch, Palmetto and Southeast.
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Bayshore, Braden River, Bradenton Christian, Cardinal Mooney, Out-of-Door Academy and Saint Stephen’s are headed toward Week 2 of district play.
This is the meat of the season, when things start getting fun.
But I don’t buy the notion that the season starts tonight.
I know the math. I know the only games teams need to win are district games, and that coaches craft their non-district schedule in hopes of making themselves better for district opponents rather than worrying about fattening their records.
All that stuff makes sense.
But how would Manatee feel entering Sarasota tonight at 0-4 instead of 4-0? What semblance of momentum would Braden River be carrying into Southeast if the Pirates were 1-4 and 4-1?
And as happy as Palmetto was to get off the losing end last week at Bayshore, compounding the joy was the fact the Tigers’ first win came just before tonight’s district opener at Charlotte.
The games before these games count. They may not count in the standings. They may not get any team any closer to the playoffs.
But a successful non-district run, especially the one that comes before a slate of district games, is integral. Winning is infectious. So is losing. Patterns just don’t stop and start because games have asterisks attached to them. Players to need buy in and believe in their coaches, and players are easier sells when teams are putting up prime results.
But it’s not all about the record. Southeast may be 1-3, but the Seminoles put together a number of impressive moments against Manatee and Venice, two of the best Class 5A teams in the state, to make themselves contenders for the Class 3A-District 10 crown.
And don’t tell Braden River last week’s non-district win against Arcadia DeSoto, which knocked the Pirates out of the playoffs, didn’t mean anything because it was a non-district affair.
The next few weeks are pivotal, when every team comes closer of further from their ultimate goal, which is to get into the postseason.
We’re about to enter the most important time of the season — a season that begun during the first weekend of September.
The only thing we’re trying to figure out is when it is going to end.