Friday night is the part of the week every high school football player and coach anticipates more than any other during the autumn.
But for nearly a dozen Gwinnett County school teams, it will be Thursday night lights those players, coach and support staff will be anticipating this week.
With the Gwinnett County Public Schools’ fall break beginning Thursday, 11 schools involved in six different games have elected to move their games up a day to Thursday.
In some cases, the decision was made as soon as the GCPS calendar was set over the summer, while other schools waited before making the move.
But in most cases, moving their game up to the first day of the break instead of in the middle of it was designed for the convenience of students, fans and their families who may be wanting to head out of town in mind.
“We thought we’d be able to get a bigger crowd if we would do it on Thursday,” said Collins Hill coach Lenny Gregory, whose Eagles will host neighborhood rival Peachtree Ridge on Thursday night at 7:30, shortly after this past Friday’s win over Duluth. “Peachtree Ridge and Collins Hill is typically a rivalry game. A lot of people are wanting to go out of town, so we wanted to accommodate our communities and make it a different deal. I think it will be fun.”
The different date, plus the fact the break extends into the following Monday, may make it a fun experience for students and fans for all the schools involved, particularly those involved in the Collins Hill-Peachtree Ridge game, as well as the early Region 8-AAAAAAA showdown between No. 4 state-ranked Grayson and undefeated Shiloh at Shiloh.
But for the teams involved, it makes for a significant adjustment in their game preparations for a short week.
“The good news is that we had a bye week (last week), so we were able to make sure we addressed some things,” Gregory said. “We stole maybe a couple of days during (last) week (in practice) to prep for this week.
“That being said, they’re kids. So we’ve just got to keep it simple to get them ready and go out and play football.”
But it’s more than the mental aspects of game preparations that could be a concern.
The short week could also pose physical challenges, especially for a teams involved in a tough, physical, emotional game like No. 8 Parkview did in edging Norcross 31-24 on a touchdown in the waning moments of its Region 7-AAAAAAA opener last Friday.
Those are things that coach Eric Godfree is keeping in mind as he and his staff prepare the Panthers as they welcome Lakeside-DeKalb to the Big Orange Jungle on Thursday.
“Physically, we’ve played our last three games in a row against really good football teams,” Godfree said. “The kids need a physical break, so we’re going to combine our Wednesday and Thursday practices. We normally do our walk-through on Thursday, but we’ll move it to Wednesday. We normally have physical practices Tuesday and Wednesday each week, so this means we’ll be physically one less day this week, but we feel like we have to.”
In addition to the Thursday games, one other county team will skip the normal Friday night schedule when Archer travels to take on Newton on Saturday at 2 p.m.