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It's the most wonderful time of the year for football fans and Gene Walker

I've always been a clock and calendar person. The only thing I enjoy studying more than a calendar is a road map, and I seldom go anywhere. My biological clock is telling me the time is here, and my road map is pointing me to some exciting locations.

The time? Football season.

The locations? Anywhere there is 120 yards of green grass and a few bright lights.

The local action gets underway tonight when Briarwood Academy travels to Edmund Burke Academy. Briarwood is coming off a 7-5 season in 2005 and Edmund Burke was 4-9 last year. The Buccaneers won last year's matchup with Burke by a score of 27-14.

The South Carolina Gamecocks and Mississippi State Bulldogs open the SEC season tonight in Starkville. I look forward to watching that game for two reasons. Thomson's own Jasper and Casper Brinkley will play defense for the Gamecocks, and I want to get a peep at what faces the Georgia Bulldogs in week two.

The Thomson Bulldogs open a somewhat unusual schedule by traveling to Conyers to take on the Salem Seminoles? The Seminoles? I didn't know there was a trace of Indian ancestry in Rockdale County. I never knew that wild hogs were still roaming south Richmond County either when Cross Creek named themselves the Razorbacks.

Salem is coming off a 9-3 season and they were 13-1 in 2004. They lost only to Statesboro that season in the state class AAAA semi-finals in the Georgia Dome. Their final game last year was a playoff loss to another powerhouse, Marist.

Coach Frank Caputo, formerly of Richmond Academy (1991-97), built the Salem program into a state contender. Caputo flew the coop this year to Jackson County, and now the Seminoles are coached by Chad Estes. Estes was head coach at Mundy's Mill in Clayton County during the 2003 and 2004 seasons where he compiled a record of 8-11-1. I hope Salem playing under a new coach will offset the hot bus ride on I-20 west that faces the Bulldogs.

Thomson will enjoy only four regular season home games in the Brickyard and, besides the opener, faces another long trip to play Benedictine in Savannah on Oct. 6. Next week's Bulldog opponent, Washington-Wilkes, plays host to Warren County tomorrow night. Lee Hutto, a Thomson letterman from 1989-1991 and former Bulldog assistant, makes his debut as a head coach with the Screaming Devils.

On Saturday, the Georgia Bulldogs entertain the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers. Is a Hilltopper an Indian or a wild hog? Who knows? Georgia had to settle for this opponent when Tulane backed out on the Bulldogs a couple of years ago. I do not like Georgia playing Division 1-AA teams, even Georgia Southern. All of the talk about Georgia has been about the quarterback derby and the second game against South Carolina. Western Kentucky returns 15 starters from a 6-5 team, including a pretty good quarterback. They could be a challenge.

One of the most interesting college games of the weekend occurs Saturday night in Atlanta when the almighty Notre Dame Fightin' Irish takes on the almighty Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets. The elite national sports media figures Notre Dame for a top three team under coach Charlie Weis. Weis made himself famous directing the offense of the New England Patriots and did shake the Irish from the doldrums of last year.

Georgia Tech appears to have a pretty good first string, especially wide receiver Calvin Johnson. Their fortunes likely rest on the performance of senior quarterback Reggie Ball, a three-year starter. Tech fans were glad to hear coach Chan Gailey turn over play calling to an assistant. Even some Georgia fans think coach Mark Richt should do the same. As the season plays out we'll find out if listening to the fans is a good idea.

I get regular e-mails from the Middle Tennessee State sports information office. Thomson's Demarco McNair has had a good summer camp as the Blue Raiders number two tailback. Their new coach is a longtime assistant from many schools, Rick Stockstill. They open with Florida International tonight. Deon Palmer's Louisville Cardinals host Kentucky on Sunday.

Georgia Southern does not open their season until Sept. 9 against Central Connecticut State in Statesboro. The Atlanta Falcons and the rest of The NFL kickoff next weekend also. The Falcons will travel to Charlotte to play the Carolina Panthers.

This is my favorite time of year, and football is my favorite subject to write about. I sincerely want to wish all local young men and coaches good luck. I especially want to single out Coach Hutto over in Warren County. He's getting a well-deserved shot at a head job, and I hope that he gets full support from the community and school administration. That is vital everywhere, but especially in a small Class A school with limited resources and a short supply of players.

The talk and speculation is over. All of the questions are ready to be answered. We often forget that's why they play the games.

I'm ready.

Web posted on Thursday, August 31, 2006

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