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Spring football marks year of new beginnings

The first day of spring football is similar to the first day of anything.

It’s a day of renewal and hope. A day of fresh starts. A day of looking forward.

They’ll be doing so today at Braden River, where the Pirates and their interim head coach, Ed Volz, will try to rebound in the wake of Josh Hunter’s resignation. What the folks at Braden River have been going through transcends and is much more important than football. Hopefully, a few days spent out in the sun and in between the hashmarks will provide some semblance of relief.

No one is living through the pain the Pirates are. Though this spring has its share of interesting storylines that will begin to unfold today, the first official day of spring practice.

Over at Saint Stephen’s, the Falcons are preparing for their first fall playing in a district. They’re the last local team to join a district, choosing to go the independent route in the hopes of making a quick splash.

Then, of course, is the little matter of redistricting. Manatee is the lone local in a district filled with schools from Sarasota County. Southeast, Bayshore and Braden River are all battling for district supremacy. Palmetto will be trying to sustain the momentum fueled by last year’s district title against a slew of new foes.

Out-of-Door Academy will try for another playoff berth. Bradenton Christian will try for its first.

And then there’s the notion of a true county champion — all of the locals play each other this season. Winning a district title, and the first-round postseason home game that comes with it, is paramount.

But in an area as tradition-rich as this, being named the best team on the block isn’t too shabby, either.

Football is the only sport that has something like this — a miniature second season that buys coaches and players a handful of extra weeks to work together. And it might not be something other coaches want to hear, especially since this is the same week the Florida High School Athletic Association’s board of directors decided to trim the schedules of every sanctioned sport with the exception of football.

But today marks the start of the 2009-10 prep season, in a way. It gives us a glimpse of what will happen in the coming months — the surprises, disappointments and everything that comes with them.

There will be new beginnings all over the county today — be it at Braden River High, Turner Fields or Hawkins Stadium. Weeks from now, there will be games. And then the equipment and game film will be packed away, and all of a sudden, it will be August, home to broiling two-a-days and boundless promise.

Then they’ll roll out the volleyballs. And the golf carts. And the shin guards. And aluminum bats.

And suddenly, it will all be over, and we’ll be back to this day, a year from now.

Everything has a beginning.

For prep sports, today is the day.