After months of summer workouts and fall camp, the lights will finally be turned on Friday night in Duck Samford Stadium when Auburn High opens the season against Wilcox Central.
The biggest challenges leading up to the season are for players to understand what it takes to improve every day, compete on Friday night and incorporate a lot of new faces on the team, said AHS head coach Adam Winegarden.
"The chemistry part is key, so everybody is not only finding a role early but also accepting the role so we can compete and be successful early because as the year goes, people’s roles will change. It never ends like you start in that regard," he said. "Everybody piecing everything together quickly to play is a challenge, especially with the preseason being as short as it is now."
Winegarden added that he likes where the team is from an eagerness standpoint.
"A lot of times when you get out there on the Friday night stage, sometimes players feel like all of the sudden, since it’s a different atmosphere, that they have to do something different, and they don’t," he said. "It’s about focus and transferring what you did at practice onto the game field. We always tell them, ‘If there is something different that you should do on the field on Friday, we would teach you in practice.’ But it takes guys a little bit of time to figure that out and feel confident in what they’re doing on the field."
The biggest question marks for the Tigers are on the perimeter at wide receiver and defensive back and in the kicking game, said Winegarden.
"We’ll have a lot of new faces on defense, so seeing if we have guys that will be disciplined and be able to play assignment football and play with great technique," he said. "And like I said, not get on the field and think they have to do something different. I think a lot of times players think they have to do something totally different to be successful. They just need to be the best them they can be. There’s no other pressure than just being the best player and what we’ve coached them to be.
"I think just as long as we have that understanding we’ll be fine. The kids will enjoy playing the game."
The Tigers will be going up against an unfamiliar opponent in Wilcox Central, who will also play in Auburn next season. Winegarden said there's always unfamiliarity with an opening opponent regardless of who it is.
"Anytime you go into a first game, it doesn’t matter if you’re playing Wilcox Central or another team across the state, there’s going to be a lot of mystery and some unknown until you get into the season because you don’t have a lot of film," he said. "I just want the kids to leave every year knowing they’ve maximized their potential, they’ve got good skills for our program for later and they leave no regrets."