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Countdown to kickoff just keeps getting closer

For at least the third week in a row, I am opening some type of story with a countdown. Sorry to be so redundant.
We are now two weeks and a day from the trip to Springfield and the season-opening football scrimmage with the Rebels of Effingham County on Aug. 14. More importantly, we are but three weeks and a day away from the regular-season opener at Kelly Memorial Stadium when we host the Islanders of St. John’s Island, S.C., on Aug. 21.
Big football dates are that close and we have not yet donned the full pads and will not until next Tuesday.
Can that be right? Is it really time for “Fall” sports?
Check this out -- the Lady Gamecock softball team will have played three games before that Effingham County football scrimmage. Road trips to Brooklet, Marlow and Vidalia happen for the team on Aug. 10-12. It is definitely time for Fall sports.
You know everyone, including me, is truly excited about the upcoming football season. Still we will have some mighty young people at some mighty key positions. Of course, they are very talented young people. Still again, a repeat of a 10-2 season with a region title will be tough.
Everyone should be just as excited about the upcoming softball season as well.
At four of the five “middle” positions, we are as strong as we have ever been. If Billy Pollock can find a pitcher (that fifth middle position) to throw strikes all the while keeping those other four middle players in their best positions, we can make it very hard for Harlem to three-peat as region titlists.
Sometimes things just come to me; sometimes they are relevant, sometimes they are irrelevant. I reckon the reader decides the relevance.
Something I did not think to check last year. When we opened on that Saturday night at Kelly Memorial Stadium last season it was the third earliest (8/23) opening date in history. Since this year’s opener comes two calendar days earlier, it becomes the third earliest (8/21) opening date in history.
Intrigued are you? The earliest were the 2004 and 2005 openers versus Effingham County. They came on 8/18/05 and 8/20/04. What difference does the opening date make? There is a trend towards these early opening dates and is it good or bad?
Between 1932 and 1978, Sylvania High and SCHS opened in August just once. In 1962, Athens High School came here on Aug. 31. Not again for 16 years did it happen -- 1978 and 1979. Thrice more in the ‘80s and but twice in the ‘90s did it happen.
So add it up, from 1932-2000, close to three-quarters of a century, we opened in August a total of eight times. Since 2000, we have not opened in August only once -- 2006.
So what changed?
In 1996, the GHSA expanded the number of teams making the playoffs from each region from two to four. Adding an extra team meant adding a round of playoffs -- from four to five. Once the state championships were played the week before Christmas -- for us that was 12/17/94 and 12/20/02.
To secure the Georgia Dome for the state finals, the championships are now played two weeks before Christmas. The last two AA state title games have each been played on 12/13.
Those two facts, adding a week to the season for an additional round of playoffs and pushing the state championships games a week ahead, have moved the season lid-lifters for most teams from very early September to the middle of August.
Does it matter? Maybe, maybe not. But when the proverbial toe meets leather on the 21st at Kelly Memorial Stadium, our Roosters will have had barely two weeks in pads to prepare for that contest. Can you really get ready in that amount of time?
Why in the world did this thought of opening dates even come to me? One of the sponsored features I will have during the broadcasts of football games this year is a quick “This week in Gamecock history.” Obviously, when I started looking for things that happened on the week of Aug. 21, this jumped out at me.
Something I wanted to throw into a column a couple of weeks ago was soccer. I got rolling down a road of memories and thoughts on Ken “The Snake” Stabler and there was simply not enough room. Well here is my chance, though I have gone long again, to get in a few words of praise for the Ladies who represented the United States in the World Cup.
Can you say World Cup Champions? They left no doubt did they?
Compare that to our men.
In the just-completed Gold Cup that helps for rankings into the next men’s World Cup, we finished the tourney with losses to Jamaica and Panama. What?
Panama (population 3.864 million) and Jamaica (population 2.715 million) beat the United States? Our own Georgia, not known at all for producing soccer players, has 10.1 million.
I subscribe to Tony Kornheiser’s “population theory.” Kornheiser’s theory says, “The country with the larger population should have more players to choose from, and therefore be better than a team with a smaller population.”
Obviously, this theory was, and continues to be, disproven by our men’s soccer team. How can we not find 11-14 players who can beat Jamaica?
Hey, next week we will be one week and one day away from Springfield.

Burton Kemp Jr. is a contributing writer for the Sylvania Telephone.