The Fourth of July is now over. The Southeastern Conference's football media days are this week in Hoover. High school football teams are in the throws of 7-on-7 camps. And, yours truly is in the planning stages of our annual Pigskin Preview.
Yes, football season is coming (less than eight weeks away, but who's counting?). For those of you who need a football fix until then, I'm happy to oblige. Here's a column devoted to this season's area high school football games.
Week 0 (Aug. 25)
Last year brought us the first ever "Border Battle" doubleheader at Piedmont. Rain aside, it was a great way to begin the season, and it continues this year with Cedartown being the host.
The matchups this season feature Cherokee County against Cedartown, while two-time defending Class 3A state champion Piedmont battles Rockmart.
Piedmont will be putting its 25-game winning streak on the line.
Week 1 (Sept. 1)
The Warriors and Bulldogs face off against one another in the "Battle of Highway 9" on Sept. 1. Piedmont pulled away for a 35-21 victory last season and has won the last seven games in the series, which dates all the way back to 1925. Can the Warriors put an end the Bulldogs' win streak?
Other Week 1 matchups include Plainview at Sand Rock, Cedar Bluff at North Sand Mountain, Collinsville at Crossville, Gaylesville at Section, and Spring Garden at Beulah.
Week 2 (Sept. 8)
Another rivalry rematch headlines Week 2 when Cherokee County travels to Hokes Bluff. The two teams split their contests last season, with the Warriors claiming a 30-7 victory last September for their first win of the season. The two teams battled again in the third round of the Class 4A state playoffs, with Hokes Bluff coming away with a 28-21 victory.
Another county rivalry takes place at Gaylesville when the Trojans host Spring Garden in an early Class 1A, Region 6 battle. Spring Garden blanked the Trojans 40-0 last season.
Piedmont hosts Glencoe, Cedar Bluff travels to Sylvania, Sand Rock travels to Westbrook Christian, and Collinsville is at Ider to round out the Week 2 schedule.
Week 3 (Sept. 15)
Cedar Bluff plays its first home game of the season by welcoming Class 1A, Region 6 rival Gaylesville on Sept. 15. The Tigers earned a 41-6 victory last year and have won the last three meetings.
There will be no shortage of athletes when Cherokee County hosts Anniston in a key Class 4A, Region 5 battle. Piedmont travels to Wedowee to face Randolph County. Collinsville also hosts Gaston in its first home of the 2017 season. Ider is at Sand Rock and Spring Garden travels to Woodville to round out Week 3.
Week 4 (Sept. 22)
Spring Garden finally gets to play in front of the home crowd when the Panthers welcome Valley Head on Sept. 22. The two teams have split their past four meetings, with Spring Garden winning last year's game 52-6.
A lot of area teams will be playing at home in Week 4, including Cherokee County (vs. Oneonta), Cedar Bluff (vs. Woodville), Gaylesville (vs. Meek), and Piedmont (vs. Pleasant Valley). The only area teams hitting the road in Week 4 are Sand Rock (at Gaston) and Collinsville (at Asbury).
Week 5 (Sept. 29)
One of this area's longstanding rivalries will add another chapter when Collinsville visits Cedar Bluff on Sept. 29. The Panthers have taken three of the last four meetings, including last year's contest 35-14.
While it may not be as longstanding as the Cedar Bluff-Collinsville series, Piedmont and Leeds has turned into a great rivalry in its own right. The Green Wave was the last team to hand Piedmont a loss (29-12 on Sept. 24, 2015). Piedmont won last year's battle 29-14.
Other games in Week 5 include Pisgah at Sand Rock, Donoho at Spring Garden, Gaylesville at Appalachian, and Cherokee County at Carver of Birmingham.
Week 6 (Oct. 6)
In what could be a battle for the Class 2A, Region 6 title, Sand Rock travels to defending state champion Fyffe. The Red Devils have claimed the last six meetings, including a 42-7 decision last year.
Another intense battle should be the Piedmont at Weaver game. The Bulldogs defeated the Bearcats twice last season, including a 52-28 victory in the third round of the Class 3A state playoffs.
Also, keep an eye on the Woodville at Gaylesville game. That one could be for a playoff spot.
Other matchups in Week 6 include Cherokee County at Saks, Cedar Bluff at Valley Head, Westbrook Christian at Collinsville, and Spring Garden at Coosa Christian.
Week 7 (Oct. 13)
Playoff positioning could be at stake in Week 7, which features Section at Sand Rock.
Other games that week include Collinsville at Fyffe, Cherokee County at White Plains, Cedar Bluff at Coosa Christian, Wellborn at Piedmont, Gaylesville at Valley Head, and Jacksonville Christian at Spring Garden.
Week 8 (Oct. 20)
In what proved to be two of last season's more competitive contests, Ohatchee travels to Piedmont in what could be a pivotal Class 3A, Region 5 battle. Piedmont won both of last year's battles (45-35 at Ohatchee on Oct. 14 and 53-26 in the state semifinals on Nov. 25).
Another crucial game could be when Sand Rock travels to Collinsville. The two teams renewed their rivalry on the football field last year, with Sand Rock claiming a 34-0 victory.
Cherokee County welcomes Ashville, Jacksonville Christian visits Cedar Bluff, Gaylesville hosts Coosa Christian, and Spring Garden travels to Holy Spirit to round out Week 8's action.
Week 9 (Oct. 27)
The past few seasons, the Cedar Bluff-Spring Garden game has gone a long way in determining a region championship. This year's battle should as well.
In what was a classic contest last year, Cedar Bluff held on for a 29-24 victory to clinch the Region 6 championship and end the Panthers' hopes of an undefeated regular season.
In another region championship rematch from last season, Cherokee County visits Jacksonville. The Warriors won last year's game 35-21.
Section visits Collinsville, Gaylesville travels to Jacksonville Christian, and Sand Rock is at Asbury in other Week 9 area action.
Week 10 (Nov. 2-3)
The end of the 2017 regular season begins a day early when Cedar Bluff hosts Sand Rock in one of this area's most anticipated matchups every year. Valley Head also visits Collinsville to kick off the weekend a day early.
Then, on Friday, Piedmont travels to Oneonta, Spring Garden visits Pleasant Valley, and Gaylesville travels Alabama School for the Deaf.
The state playoffs begin Nov. 10 and continue through the Super 7 championships at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa Dec. 6-8.