Stepping Up: Local football teams to embark on 2017 season

Published 6:09 pm Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Every August brings with it a chance for high school football teams to forge their own path. No matter how the previous season went, everyone ranging from newcomers to the senior class playing its last season opener has specific goals in mind.

Some goals may be loftier than others. For example, when Washington kicks off its campaign at East Carteret, the Pam Pack will be making what it hopes is the first step in a rebuilding direction. Its foundation has slowly crumbled just a few short years after playing for a state championship. A winning season would be delightful, but its tough schedule may put that out of reach.

Jon Blank will take the field as a head coach for the first time after an long tenure as Pam Pack defensive coordinator. So, not only will Friday’s opener begin his journey to help bring Washington back to its former prominence, but it will also be an special moment for him personally.

Southside and Northside both get to open the 2017 season in front of their home fans. The Seahawks dive head first into their schedule when they host a stout 2-A team in Ayden-Grifton. They’ve been known to hit their stride later in the season, but the Chargers will be a stiff test for a Southside squad that isn’t content with having appeared in two-straight regional championships.

There’s no doubt the Seahawks want to get over the hump and play for a title. They’ve had stellar senior classes in the past two years, but have come up short in consecutive 5-point losses to Plymouth. This group can follow in the footsteps of those they watched over the past two seasons, but set themselves apart by competing for titles in conference and in the state.

Northside faces a crossroads of sorts this season. Last year’s high-octane offense and tight-knit defense helped the Panthers to their best season in over a decade. Now, though, they go into the season with just one offensive starter from 2016. Much of that defense remains intact, meaning it has the potential to be unforgiving this year. The offense, too, has promise, but may take time to find its rhythm.

This season could decide whether last year’s trip to the second round of the playoffs was a one-off or the laying of a foundation for consistency. Piecing together a winning season, and perhaps another win or two in the postseason, would go a long way in establishing a winning culture in Pinetown.

For better or worse, the past few years have laid the groundwork for how this season could play out for Washington, Northside and Southside. However, when the lights bear down on these players and they hit the field for the first time in nearly a year, it’ll be up to them — and only them — to dictate how the next few months unfold.