After waiting in limbo for months, Texas high school football teams found out last week there will be a season, and that season officially begins with the opening day of practice next week.
Corsicana's Tigers won't start practice until Sept. 7 and won't open the season until Sept.25 because the UIL delayed the start of football for all Class 5A and 6A schools. But Golden Circle teams from Mildred, Rice, Blooming Grove, Kerens, Frost, Dawson and Hubbard all begin practice on Monday.
Three of those Golden Circle teams -- Blooming Grove, Mildred and Rice -- play in the same district, and all three are expected to make a run at the playoffs.
The three GC rivals will once again compete in District 7-3A DII, which said so long to powerhouse Buffalo but brings back defending champ Palmer, Edgewood, Scurry-Rosser and Dallas Gateway.
Texas Football magazine picks Palmer to repeat as the district champ, names Edgewood as the favorite to be the runner-up and lists Rice as the third team and Mildred as the fourth and final playoff team in its preseason predictions.
The magazine picks Blooming Grove fifth, and you can bet the race for the playoffs will just add even more intensity to the rivalry games when the three GC teams meet.
Rice kept its playoff streak alive when the Bulldogs reached the postseason for the fifth year in a row last fall, but they had to bring it all to beat a young Blooming Grove team, which took the Bulldogs to overtime in a classic 33-25 game that just added to the rivalry.
Ironically, Rice and Blooming Grove will meet on Nov. 6 in the final regular season game of the year in what will be must-see Friday Night Lights football.
Blooming Grove opens the season in a non-district game at Eustace on Aug. 28 and opens the District 7-3A DII season on Sept. 25 at Mildred in what should be one of the biggest games of the year.
Mildred opens the regular season at home against Groesbeck on Aug. 28, and Mildred fans can listen to the game on the radio. KAND's Rusty Hitt and Todd Wills will be calling the start of the season for the Eagles because KAND will broadcast Mildred's first three games.
The Eagles open district play at home against Blooming Grove on Sept. 25, and play at Rice on Oct. 16 in their other rivalry game.
Rice opens the regular season at home on Aug. 28 against Chilton and plays its first district game at home against defending district champ Palmer on Sept. 25.
Rice coach Andy Mills, who has led the Bulldogs to the playoffs every year since he arrived in 2015, has always emphasized defense and that won't change in 2020.
Rice linebacker Brycen Clark was Texas Football's preseason pick for the District 7-3A DII Defensive Player of the Year. Clark had a monster season a year ago leading Rice's aggressive defense.
He was the Golden Circle Defensive Player of the Year and one of the big reasons the Bulldogs earned another trip to the playoffs.
Clark was everywhere on the field and finished the season with 96 tackles, including 62 solos. He made 12 tackles for losses and had six sacks, forced five fumbles, recovered a fumble and blocked a kick. He also picked off three interceptions and had seven pass deflections.
Mildred's Bishop Harris is the obvious pick as the preseason choice for the 7-3A DII Offensive Player of the Year.
Mildred coach Duke Dalton built a potent running game in his first season at Mildred and you can expect the Eagles to keep running the ball.
Harris led Mildred's powerful running game a year ago and he led the Golden Circle in rushing, gaining 2,134 yards while scoring 22 touchdowns. He had a memorable night against powerhouse Buffalo, running for 252 yards on 27 carries and scoring twice.
Harris is a three-year starter for the Eagles and everyone expects a big year for Dalton's team, which just missed the playoffs a year ago.
Blooming Grove coach Ervin Chandler made a big impact in his first season at the Grove last year and energized a young team that may be ready to take the next step into the playoffs this season.
The Lions bring back a lot of talent, including tailback Jalen Coleman, a talented junior who exploded on the scene in his first season as a sophomore and was one of the Golden Circle's Newcomers of the Year.
Coleman ran for 710 yards on 126 carries (5.63 average) and scored five touchdowns and was the 7-3A DII Offensive Newcomer of the Year.