The last three weeks have felt like an eternity.
The sentiment has been echoed by coaches and players alike as Dawson County High School football will finally get underway Friday night when the team will face off against visiting Forsyth Central at Tiger Stadium.
"Everyone within the program is very excited to get the season going," said Andy LeBlanc, offensive coordinator for the Tigers. "Having three weeks between our scrimmage and our first game has felt like an eternity."
Despite the delay that always seems to come for football players and fans enduring the August heat, the players recognize that the extra time has allowed them to sharpen their focus as they enter the season with a target on them.
"We feel like we are on everybody's map," said returning Region 7-AAA Player of the Year Coey Watson. "Everybody wants to beat us this year because of the season we had last year.
"So we have been trying to not just practice like we did last year, but to be better than we were last year every day. And to push and do the little things we don't usually do, but this year the coaches have been pushing us to do the tiniest things to get us that much better."
Last year's accomplishments can also raise expectations, but Dawson County coaches aren't relying on last year's success.
"Every year, even though I have been doing this a long time, is a new beginning," said Head Coach Sid Maxwell. "Whether you had a bad year the year before or a great year, you are back to square one."
Defensive coordinator Brent Cox said the players have to avoid being satisfied with what's already been done.
"The key thing is we can't have complacency and think we have arrived anywhere coming off a region championship. We have to stay humble and fight because everybody is going to be trying to pick you off," Cox said.
With the excitement in check as much as possible, the players are the first to say that there are some holes that will be tough, if not impossible, to fill.
"Tucker and Hunter were explosive," said senior linebacker Luke Martin. "We haven't found that explosion yet, but this year I feel like we have the players."
Martin and Watson agree that Tucker Maxwell, who accounted for close to 900 yards receiving, and Hunter Mitchell, who had 1,300 yards rushing, would be nearly impossible to replace.
"Throwing a five-yard hitch out to Tucker and him taking it and beating the corner and going to the house-that will be hard to replace because Tucker was a freak," Watson said. "The speed is going to be different, but we have also got depth."
Martin feels the same.
"We have an O-line this year that can help us grind the ball, grind it down the field. We may not have those explosive plays," he said. "We are going to stuff it down your throat and you are not going to stop us."
This year's team includes new players like senior Kolton Brumbelow, who hasn't played since eighth grade football. He will take on one of the receiving positions, as well as put in some time at defensive back.
"I am mostly excited because this is my first year playing at the high school actually," Brumbelow said. "I just want to do as much as I can for the team and perform better than they did last year."
Senior linebacker Jakob Scoggins thinks this year's team can replicate last year's success.
"I think we could make it at least as far as we made it last year," Scoggins said. "It will be a little bit tougher, but I think we can do it. It's just how bad we want to work for it."
Cox said the defense has depth and that raises expectations on the other side of the ball.
"Defensively we are returning most of our defensive line and linebackers," Cox said. "We have some new guys in the secondary, extremely skilled. We have more depth than we did last year."
Along with the new blood is a group of mostly seniors, with the exception of junior Watson, who have played together for 10 years now.
"Ever since I was 7-8 years old, when I first came to Dawson County and played, this has always been my dream," Martin said. "We went 51-1 from first grade to sixth grade. With that group together and we are all seniors this year, this is a really big year for us and we feel like we can do something special with it."
Watson added, "We have been waiting on this since we were five and six. This is supposed to be the year for us."
This week will give everyone a glimpse of how the team has come together in its second season with Maxwell at the helm.
"Especially during this first game, the excitement level sometimes clouds your judgment and decision making," Maxwell said. "There are going to be a lot of mistakes. Between game one and game two you make most of your gains. We just have to step up and play."
The Tigers first game will be at 7:30 p.m. Friday at home against Forsyth Central High School.