It is never too early to start thinking about the 2019 high school football season.

The season, which brings with it district realignments, begins Aug. 30 when five of the seven area schools hit the field with high expectations for the dawning of the new year.

The Shenandoah District has only six schools — Buffalo Gap, Fort Defiance, Riverheads, Staunton (formerly Robert E. Lee), Stuarts Draft and Wilson Memorial — after the exodus of East Rockingham, Luray, Page County and Stonewall Jackson to the Bull Run District.

The Valley District is also reduced to six schools after Fort’s move to the Shenandoah.

Also the Green Hornets make the jump to Class 3 competition.

Waynesboro, Wilson, Stuarts Draft, Buffalo Gap and three-time defending Class 1 state champion Riverheads all kickoff their 2019 seasons on that last Friday in August.

The Little Giants and Green Hornets renew their rivalry in Fishersville, while the Cougars host Pioneer District member James River. The Bison, under new head coach Brad Wygant, hit the road to battle Clarke County. Clarke will be out for a measure of revenge after Gap eliminated the Eagles in the first round of the Region 2B playoffs last season.

And then there are the Gladiators, who had an interesting offseason to say the least. Legendary head coach Robert Casto announced he was stepping down in early January, and the school hired Thad Wheeler from Warhill High School in Williamsburg to replace Casto. However, Wheeler backed out coming to Riverheads, citing family matters. Casto agreed to return to coaching the Gladiators, so after all is said and done, it is status quo in the Red Pride community much to its delight.

Casto and the Gladiators begin their quest for a fourth consecutive state championship Aug. 30 at home against W&L-Montross.

Riverheads definitely has an interesting nondistrict schedule as the school had trouble finding teams that wanted to play it. The smaller district means there are five nondistrict games instead of the previous two. Besides W&L-Montross, the Gladiators also host Glenvar and Colonial Beach, while taking road trips to East Rockingham and Skyline.

The compact Valley and Shenandoah districts also means all district clashes will be played the last half of the season with no byes during that stretch.

Fort Defiance and Staunton are the final two area teams to begin their seasons on Sept. 6.

The Indians, coming off a turnaround 2018 campaign by going 5-5 after suffering through a brutal 2-38 stretch the prior four years that included a 25-game losing streak, open on the road at Liberty-Bedford.

Not only does Staunton start out with a new school name and nickname, but the Storm also has a new head coach in Jake Phillips. Phillips, who starred at Bath County High School and W&M as a quarterback, will be on the road at Covington.

Get ready. It won’t be long before the Friday Night Lights are shining brightly again.

Here is a look at the 2019 schedules for the seven area schools:

Waynesboro

Aug. 30 at Wilson Memorial, 7 p.m.

Sept. 6 Stuarts Draft, 7 p.m.

Sept. 13 Fort Defiance, 7 p.m.

Sept. 20 Western Albemarle, 7 p.m.

Sept. 27 at Fluvanna County, 7 p.m.

Oct. 4 Bye week

Oct. 11 Harrisonburg, 7 p.m.

Oct. 18 at Rockbridge County, 7 p.m.

Oct. 25 at Spotswood, 7 p.m.

Nov. 2 vs. Turner Ashby at JMU, 6:30 p.m.

Nov. 8 Broadway, 7 p.m.

Wilson Memorial

Aug. 30 Waynesboro, 7 p.m.

Sept. 6 at Luray, 7 p.m.

Sept. 13 at Page County, 7 p.m.

Sept. 20 Bye week

Sept. 27 at Spotswood, 7 p.m.

Oct. 4 Turner Ashby, 7 p.m.

Oct. 11 Riverheads, 7 p.m.

Oct. 18 Stuarts Draft, 7 p.m.

Oct. 25 Buffalo Gap, 7 p.m.

Nov. 1 at Fort Defiance, 7 p.m.

Nov. 8 at Staunton, 7 p.m.

Stuarts Draft

Aug. 30 James River, 7 p.m.

Sept. 6 at Waynesboro, 7 p.m.

Sept. 13 Covington, 7 p.m.

Sept. 20 at Clarke County, 7 p.m.

Sept. 27 Bye week

Oct. 4 Luray, 7 p.m.

Oct. 11 at Buffalo Gap, 7 p.m.

Oct. 18 at Wilson Memorial, 7 p.m.

Oct. 25 at Fort Defiance, 7 p.m.

Nov. 1 Staunton, 7 p.m.

Nov. 8 Riverheads, 7 p.m.

Fort Defiance

Sept. 6 at Liberty-Bedford, 7 p.m.

Sept. 13 at Waynesboro, 7 p.m.

Sept. 20 Stonewall Jackson, 7 p.m.

Sept. 27 Rockbridge County, 7 p.m.

Oct. 4 at Broadway, 7:30 p.m.

Oct. 11 at Staunton, 7 p.m.

Oct. 18 at Riverheads, 7 p.m.

Oct. 25 Stuarts Draft, 7 p.m.

Nov. 1 Wilson Memorial, 7 p.m.

Nov. 8 Buffalo Gap

Riverheads

Aug. 30 W&L-Montross, 7 p.m.

Sept. 6 Glenvar, 7 p.m.

Sept. 13 at East Rockingham, 7 p.m.

Sept. 20 Bye week

Sept. 27 Colonial Beach, 7 p.m.

Oct. 4 at Skyline, 7 p.m.

Oct. 11 at Wilson Memorial, 7 p.m.

Oct. 18 Fort Defiance, 7 p.m.

Oct. 25 Staunton, 7 p.m.

Nov. 1 at Buffalo Gap, 7 p.m.

Nov. 8 at Stuarts Draft, 7 p.m.

Buffalo Gap

Aug. 30 at Clarke County, 7 p.m.

Sept. 6 Parry McCluer, 7 p.m.

Sept. 13 at Bath County, 7 p.m.

Sept. 20 East Rockingham, 7 p.m.

Sept. 27 at Broadway, 7:30 p.m.

Oct. 4 Bye week

Oct. 11 Stuarts Draft, 7 p.m.

Oct. 18 Staunton, 7 p.m.

Oct. 25 at Wilson Memorial, 7 p.m.

Nov. 1 Riverheads, 7 p.m.

Nov. 8 at Fort Defiance, 7 p.m.

Staunton

Sept. 6 at Covington, 7 p.m.

Sept. 13 Liberty Christian, 7 p.m.

Sept. 20 at Turner Ashby, 7 p.m.

Sept. 27 Central Woodstock, 7 p.m.

Oct. 4 Lord Botetourt, 7 p.m.

Oct. 11 Fort Defiance, 7 p.m.

Oct. 18 at Buffalo Gap, 7 p.m.

Oct. 25 at Riverheads, 7 p.m.

Nov. 1 at Stuarts Draft, 7 p.m.

Nov. 8 Wilson Memorial, 7 p.m.

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