Opening night for Coach Jimmy Barnett's Briarwood Academy Buccaneers will be Friday night, Aug. 20, when they entertain Memorial Day School from Savannah at Buccaneer Field.
In the past week or so, the squad has scrimmaged other teams a couple of times to get prepared and find strengths and weaknesses. But time is running out, as the season kickoff is just a week away.
"In our first scrimmage against Nathaniel Greene Academy last week, our inexperience showed up completely for us," Barnett said. "Since that night, we have accelerated in our practice sessions, and we are coming out of the teaching mode. We are now executing and performing one-on-one hitting drills."
He said the scrimmage showed issues with the secondary and the offense.
"However, I am pleased that we had the opportunity to play everyone against Nat Greene that had a Briarwood uniform on," Barnett said. "At least for a moment, everybody got a shot of what the game is about. Immediately after the scrimmage, we went back and tried to correct our mistakes."
On Aug. 4, the Buccaneers traveled to Milledgeville and participated in a scrimmage against Class AAA John Milledge Academy. A lot of questions were still unanswered for the Buccaneer coaching staff following this scrimmage.
"John Milledge is a class-act of a team and a well-coached football squad," Barnett said. "During the first half of the contest, it seemed that we did not have a good sense of aggressiveness. I felt we were gun shy of this team, since they were from Class AAA."
He said the first teams from Briarwood and JMA deadlocked with no score.
"In the second half, it seemed our aggressiveness came out, especially with our linebackers Jason Holley, Jeffery Kent and Kyle Wester, and with our noseguard/defensive tackle Morgan Howard," he said.
Also working hard for the Bucs was junior transfer student Tim Johnson from Lincoln County. Johnson is a big kid, coming in at 6'0" and 215 lbs.
"Johnson did a good job for us at the defensive end position. He will be a big asset for us," Barnett said.
A big question for the Buccaneers has still not been answered yet following these two scrimmages. Who will be the starting quarterback? Not even the coaching staff knows yet.
"We are testing five players at the quarterback position, and we still have not named a starter," Barnett said. "During these two scrimmages, David Russell and Joseph Batrous battled for the position. It was a 50-50 draw."
He added, "Batrous had several good plays, while Russell executed a tremendous 45-50 yard pass that flipped off the hands of our tight end. He made the successful throw, but we didn't make the catch."
Barnett noted that the battle for the starting quarterback is still up in the air, and that the other candidates will see action during this week.
The second-year head coach for Briarwood said he was most impressed by the play of Kyle Ewest during the John Milledge scrimmage. On defense, Ewest played a pass perfectly, sheared a block and initiated a great hit that knocked the helmet off of the JMA quarterback, Barnett said.
"Kyle has paid his dues for us already this season," Barnett said. "He has worked on his weightlifting skills all winter long, and during this past summer, he did not miss a workout. He has tremendous body tones. With all this, and that terrific play against JMA, Kyle will be awarded the first-ever Buccaneer stripe for his helmet."
Meanwhile, Barnett said he was thrilled to have 33 players working out every day. But he said there is still work to be done.
"I feel we are still two days behind schedule, and we have a massive amount of teaching to do," he said. "However, I am pleased with our progress."
The Buccaneers will participate in their final scrimmage of the season on Aug. 12 in Sparta at the John Hancock Academy Classic. Briarwood will face Monroe Academy at 4 p.m.
"Hopefully, with this final scrimmage and some very intense practice sessions, we can find the right chemistry on offense and defense," Barnett said. "We are missing it right now, but I feel we can push the right buttons and gel."