The Seminole District released its 2021 football schedules Tuesday, a slimmed-down, 48-game slate in which all eight teams will play six regular-season games across a six-week span.
The regular season begins Feb. 26 and concludes April 2. It will be followed by a four-game postseason that starts April 9 and wraps May 1.
Both the regular season (typically 11 weeks long) and playoffs (normally five weeks) have been shortened because of the coronavirus pandemic, so the entire slate will look much different than in years past. In the Seminole, for instance, teams will only play in-district opponents, and each team has dropped one district opponent from its schedule.
Here's an early look at games to watch. We'll break down the best matchups in the Dogwood District next, with online content available Wednesday ahead of Thursday's print edition.
Week 1 (Feb. 26)
E.C. Glass at Jefferson Forest
The Black & Blue Bowl has swung in Glass' favor the last four years, with the Hilltoppers winning by absolute knockout in five of the last six matchups. Will 2021 be the year Jefferson Forest gets its groove back? Both teams will look radically different when they meet on opening night, with Glass replacing some key spots at quarterback, receiver and at offensive and defensive line. JF loses its biggest offensive threat in Keenan Cupit (UCF).
Amherst at Rustburg
This is a rematch of a 13-12 showdown in 2019 that gave Amherst one of its two regular-season victories. The Lancers will need to start the 2021 season strong because their schedule is brutal (it includes games against Heritage, Brookville, JF, E.C. Glass and LCA). Rustburg will look to avoid the injury bug that plagued it so much in '19, and will try to take down an Amherst squad it has defeated only once in the last six years.
Week 2 (March 5)
Brookville at Liberty
Remember when a streaky Liberty team entered Stinger Stadium and shocked the Bees with a stellar second-half showing in 2018? The Minutemen hope to rekindle that type of performance at home in 2021 as they try to erase a dismal one-win 2019 season. The Bees, who won only four times during an injury-laden '19 campaign, are coming off their worst season since 2003. But BHS returns a ton of firepower in 2021. The Bees will be older, more experienced and more athletic when the season begins, so the sky is the limit.
Week 3, March 12
LCA at E.C. Glass
The Hilltoppers took care of the Bulldogs with ease at Williams Stadium last year, but LCA returns a ton of weapons, including a five-star recruit in lineman Zach Rice, who has picked up just about every offer imaginable. The big question is whether the Hilltoppers can replicate the type of offensive firepower they had last year. If so, expect LCA to have its hands full.
Week 4, March 19
Brookville at Heritage
The Timberlake Road rivalry will feature a twist in '21. Running back Silas Rucker and receiver Jahee Blake both transferred from Heritage to Brookville in the offseason and will give BHS an even more potent pass-rush offense. But can the Bees handle Heritage's defense, which has been stifling the last few years? HHS will try to push its winning streak against BHS to seven straight games.
Week 5, March 26
Heritage at Jefferson Forest
Each of the last four meetings between these two foes has gone down to the wire, with Heritage winning three of them. JF will be mindful of that as it hosts the Pioneers for the first time since 2018, when it lost a 59-48 shootout.
Week 6, April 2
Rustburg at Liberty
Both teams are currently trying to infuse more life into their squads after missing the playoffs in 2019. By the time they meet on the final night of the season, both teams already will have gone through the Seminole gauntlet. It's been six years since the Minutemen last knocked off the Red Devils. But this is one of those matchups the Seminole has become known for: a nail-biter that normally isn't decided until late in the fourth quarter.
E.C. Glass at Heritage
Never to be missed. The newest installment of the Jug Bowl sees the Hilltoppers champing at the bit to earn back bragging rights after Heritage put everything on the line and went for a two-point conversion to earn a 15-14 victory at a packed City Stadium last fall. The area's best rivalry rarely disappoints and likely won't in 2021, either. Of course, it's too early to break the matchup down. But even now, while workouts are light and teams are taking all kinds of precautions against the coronavirus, you can bet players have one thing on their mind: the glory of winning this game. Watch for this one to have playoff implications in Class 3 for Heritage and Class 4 for Glass.
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