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Football season is only six weeks away

It’s been a summer full of World Cup soccer, NBA free agent lunacy and very talented local baseball and softball teams.

But even though the weather sure doesn’t show it, fall is quickly approaching.

It’s hard to believe, but football season is only a little more than six weeks away.

Teams will begin practicing in earnest at the beginning of August and the season will begin when the MAIS schools take the field on Aug. 20.

For The Democrat sports staff, the football season begins even earlier, as we will begin working on our annual preseason magazine in the next week.

This is always the most fun time of the year for the sports department, as we get to talk to coaches and players about what they expect from the upcoming season.

And this season has the potential to be one of the most exciting and unpredictable in recent memory.

The biggest change, of course, is the fact that there is one less school we will be covering this year, as Huntington has closed its doors due to lack of enrollment.

It will be strange not seeing the green and gold on the gridiron this season, as Huntington proved to be one of the better teams in MAIS Class A for a few years under coach Chad Harkins before the lack of players took its toll last season.

But with Huntington now closed, Harkins didn’t have to go very far to find a new job, landing the head coaching position at Ferriday High, which brings us to another big change to the 2010 season.

Of the now 11 schools in the Miss-Lou, five of them have new head coaches.

In addition to Harkins taking over for Freddie Harrison, Ron Rushing replaces Craig Beesley at Cathedral, Gary Parnham replaces Dee Faircloth at Vidalia, Ricky O’Quinn replaces Trent Hammond at Franklin County and Billy Caston replaces Sam Byrd at Wilkinson County Christian.

With new coaches comes new schemes and a new way of doing things.

The players will have to adjust to the new head man, which could make for some very interesting teams this season.

On the college circuit, the feeling at Alcorn State is completely different than it was this time last year.

While last year, the Braves were coming off a messy coaching change and 2-10 season, this year there is hope as coach Earnest Collins led his team to a surprising second place finish in the SWAC East division and a 14-7 victory over archrival Jackson State in the Capital City Classic.

Alcorn has some good things going for it this season, most notably a more favorable schedule.

Instead of opening their season on the road against Bowl Subdivision teams Southern Miss and Central Michigan, the Braves open their 2010 season at home against NAIA school Langston.

They then take a week off before beginning SWAC play against Mississippi Valley State at Soldier Field in Chicago.

The Braves do have to replace all-everything quarterback Tim Buckley, but do return their top receivers Edward Johnson and Terrance Lewis and their entire stable of running backs, as well as several key defensive starters.

At least one preseason magazine, The Sporting News, has picked Alcorn to finish second in the SWAC East, behind defending champion Alabama A&M, which Alcorn did beat 34-16 last season.

So like fans at many schools this time of year, fans of Alcorn State and the local high school are full of optimism and anticipation.

So start the countdown. The season will be here before you know it.

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