The last dress rehearsal or opening night?
Tonight, the night of the Kickoff Classics, it’s a little bit of both.
No, tonight’s games will not dent the standings. Yes, chances are, some of the guys who play tonight won’t play again until next fall.
And no, the verdicts won’t solely rely on what the scoreboard says when everything is over.
But these aren’t spring games. These are Kickoff Classics. The countdown to the regular season gets smaller after tonight, especially since only three practices — four if you count Thursday’s walkthrough — stand between evaluations and meaningful football games.
So tonight, for all intents and purposes, is it.
It all starts tonight.
We’re not talking about the result. The results don’t amount to a clump of mud and turf you find on a lineman’s cleat. Rather, coaches are hoping they like what they see, because what they see tonight won’t differ a whole lot from what they see next Friday, when the games start meaning something.
That’s how this differs from spring. Spring football is good because, after weeks of watching their team work, and watching them play a game, coaches come into the summer with a foundation. They head into camp with a template and spend the next few weeks completing it.
It’s a convenience for coaches in Florida, and that’s the reason they love it so.
The Kickoff Classic is just as convenient — it gives the younger guys a chance to experience a Friday night under the lights with minimal risk, and lets everyone know what’s in store for the remainder of the fall.
Make no mistake. There will be adjustments. Personnel will be shuffled. Adjustments will be made. Nothing tonight is set in stone.
But it also may be too late to throw everything out the window. Coaches and players have been at this stuff all summer, and tonight, they’ll get to see how much of it works and how much of it needs to be fine-tuned.
And that’s what these games are about. It may not be riveting stuff, because unlike the next 11 weeks, no one on the sidelines will be too wrapped up in wins and losses.
But it’s important stuff. Tonight is the last dress rehearsal — but it’s also opening night, when the lights flick on and there are people in the stands that have sat abandoned since May.
The results are secondary and the records won’t be impacted. There are no district titles or county titles are even bragging rights on the line tonight.
But regular season football, meaningful football, begins next Friday.
This is the last time to get out all the kinks and get a good look at the wrinkles.
So here we go: high school football starts tonight.