Practices for high school football across the state begin on Thursday, when teams will begin the official 22-day countdown to their first games of the 2013 season on Aug. 23.
How teams fare during their conference schedules will determine how many games they play in November or December. But trends start during the nonconference portions of every team’s season.
This year, thanks to realignment – done every five years by the NCHSAA to adjust for schools’ growth – those nonconference slates have a very different look for almost every area team.
There are more “rivalry” games early in the season, with five Johnston County teams moving into new conferences. Former late October or early November staples like Clayton vs. Smithfield-Selma and Corinth Holders vs. North Johnston will now come in the first month of the season.
There are a number of new “marque” games as well; two of those feature Cleveland, which takes on nearby schools Clayton and Garner in back-to-back weeks for the first time.
Garner has added its old rival back on the schedule in Cary, while Southeast Raleigh heads to South Carolina for a marque game on Labor Day Weekend.
The conference portion of the season begins Sept. 27 for the Carolina 1A and the Greater Neuse River 4A, and Oct. 11 for the Two Rivers 3A and the Eastern Plans 2A. Once that begins, Cleveland and Corinth Holders will both meet Smithfield-Selma for the first time on the field.
Corinth Holders adds its first meeting with South Johnston as well.
But for now, the focus is on the nonconference portion. Here’s a look at each area’s teams early season schedule.
The Comets will spend the first month of their first season under head coach Randy Pinkowski inside of Johnston County.
Clayton adds nonconference games with Cleveland and Smithfield-Selma to its early-season slate, which already included meetings with South Johnston and Corinth Holders.
The season opener against Cleveland will be one of the more interesting games on the regional opening week slate.
The Comets wrap up their non-league slate with a visit to longtime rival Fuquay-Varina, a school that spent the 1980s and early 1990s in the 2A ranks with Clayton.
Cleveland is no longer viewed as a “new” school by the world of high school football, thanks to back-to-back double-digit win seasons in its first two seasons of varsity play. Cleveland’s nonconference slate is one of the most wide-ranging in the Triangle.
One would be hard-pressed to come up with a more appealing August stretch of the schedule for a team than the Rams’ have, with their first meetings with nearby schools Clayton (Aug. 23) and Garner (Aug. 30). That’s followed up by a visit to rival West Johnston.
The Rams will meet a team to watch in 2013 on Sept. 13 in Green Hope, then travel to take on old Eastern Carolina 3A foe Southern Wayne on Sept. 20.
Cleveland’s nonconference slate wraps up with a visit from Durham Riverside.
In a quirk of scheduling, the Rams have just four home games this season, but they’re not away from home for more than three weeks at any point.
The Pirates’ schedule features a mix of the old 2A schools and new 3A foes early on, with Northern Nash coming to Pirate land to open the season a week before rival Clayton does the same. Corinth Holders plays its third of five Johnston County opponents this season when it visits North Johnston on Sept. 6. It then takes on old Northern Carolina 2A foe Bunn. The Pirates meet 3A Aycock before visiting another former conference member in Franklinton to close out their nonconference slate on Oct. 4.
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