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Fans, get your hot chocolate and hand warmers ready. Friday Night Football is just around the corner.

With high temperatures in the mid to upper 70’s last week, it truly started to feel like it was football season.

Monday night I was driving through the back roads of Princeton in search of my voice recorder (lucky for me, it was where I left it.) and I let the air roll into my car windows. The air was so crisp, it didn’t feel like an August night, but one you would likely experience in early September.

High School football starts this Monday, yes, this Monday! The boys of fall will be back on the fields working towards a stronger finish than last year.

One of the three local high school football teams made the playoffs, North MIddlesex (2-9), who was a one-and-done in its loss to St. John’s of Shrewsbury at Assumption College.

But, with that being said, there is a whole lot to be excited about for local football fans.

The ‘Border War’, as it is known to by the locals, will have new meaning when North Middlesex and Groton-Dunstable butt heads for the second meeting all-time.

North Middlesex, recently made the drop to the Midland B, where it will join its rival Groton-Dunstable in all sports.

Pretty soon, the sounds of the band and the cheers of the cheerleaders will be filling the now empty high school stadiums.

They look so peaceful with their green grass and the sun reflecting off the metal bleachers, but by Novemeber, it will morph into that of dry, rock-hard dirt with about as much cushion as a concrete slab.

Luckily for the athletes and coaches, Mother Nature has not made a deal with the devil to bring in a heat wave any time soon.

Back in the day … okay, so it was only six-years-ago, I remember showing up for double sessions and the thermometer read 94 degrees at the bank downtown. Now, if we break into the 80’s, it’s scorching hot.

Soon, the sound of pads crashing, whistles screeching and the helpful commentary of coaches will saturate the air.

With all that has been said on the news about concussions in football, what will the numbers at the local programs look like this year? Last season at the start of training camp, Ayer Shirley head football coach Billy Wright had just 28 players by the season’s end for various reasons, the team got smaller.

Groton-Dunstable’s team looked to be a healthy 40-45 players from what I remember.

Injuries to key skill players forced the Crusaders to settle for life in the MIAA state championship loser’s bracket, where opponents are decided based on a points system.

For whatever the reason is, North Middlesex head coach Sandy Ruggles has not had a whole lot to worry about with numbers dwindling in his program. A trip to the playoffs, albeit with a disappointing record, gave the Patriots a taste of postseason football for the first time in over a decade.

With the recent success of the North MIddlesex athletic department this last school year, the Patriots will be looking to hang a banner in the gymnasium. That being said, it does not matter who is playing who, all that matters is high school football is back.

Bring on the fast-paced, helmet rattling tackles. The roars of the crowd after a big play — it’s that time of the year, folks.

So, players, get all of that beach mentality out of your system this weekend, come Monday morning there will be a decal-less helmet with a strip of masking tape waiting with your name on it.

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