In just nine days, high school football teams will strap on the helmets and pads to begin the 2013 season.
All of the hard work in the offseason and during preseason practices will transfer over to the playing field.
It's an exciting time for players, coaches and fans alike. The start of the football season is a special time of the year. Most fans have spent the summer months talking about what to expect from the high school squad they follow.
Every team starts out without a loss, and the goal for all in the end is to be playing in Wheeling for a state championship in early December.
If the 2013 season can match the success our area schools had last season, it should be another fun ride.
Here are some thoughts to ponder entering the new year.
n Can Elkins, Tucker County, Lewis County, Moorefield and East Hardy once again make the playoffs in their respective classes?
Like a majority of high school teams around the state, all five will need to replace key players due to graduation.
The transition of new players into the lineup can either go smoothly or take some time to work out the kinks.
"It's the nature of being a high school coach," Elkins coach Greg Hott said of graduating players. "Each year brings new players, and as a coach, you make adjustments to fit what type of talent you have to work with."
Scheduling, injuries and getting that lucky bounce also are factors in a team being a .500 club or a playoff contender.
"You never know what's going to happen once you take the field," Tucker County coach A.J. Rapp said. "Injuries and other things can really take away from the depth you think you have.
"If you go out in the first game of the season and lose a starter with an injury, you have to make adjustments."
n What area team that didn't make the postseason in 2012 can be in the mix this year?
Philip Barbour just missed the Class AA playoffs last year with a 5-5 record. With a wealth of experienced skill players back to the fold, including quarterback Dillon Newman, running back Dylan Johnson and receiver Al Johnson, the Colts should be a contender.
"We have several players on this team that have been starters since they were sophomores," Philip Barbour coach Curtis Bodkins said.
"We fell just short (of the playoffs) last year and we're excited about our prospects this year."
n Can Buckhannon-Upshur, Tygarts Valley and Pendleton County rebound from last year?
All three showed signs of improvement as the season progressed in 2012. The Bucs have a new coach, as longtime assistant Duane Stoeckle takes over, while the Bulldogs and Wildcats both return key players from last year.
The thing this writer has noticed from all three coaches - Joseph Arbogast at Tygarts Valley and Rod Cooper at Pendleton County being the other two - is the enthusiasm displayed during preseason practices. The trio are determined to turn their respective programs around and have put in the extra work to succeed. More wins are certainly on the horizon.
coaches at these schools - Joseph Arbogast at Tygarts Valley and Rod Cooper at Pendleton County being the other two - is the enthusiasm displayed in the preseason. They are determined to turn their programs around and have put in the extra work to succeed. More wins are certainly on the horizon.