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Staff photo by Troy Stolt / Chattanooga Christian football players run onto the field at Finley Stadium before a game against Boyd Buchanan last September.

When the Spring Fling wrapped up a little more than a week ago, it marked the end of the Chattanooga area's prep sports season for the 2020-21 school year. It also meant the clock started on the countdown to the next prep season.

With spring practices completed, high school football teams are now fully immersed in the conditioning portion of their preseason workouts. So with just 75 days before the 2021 season kicks off, the Times Free Press begins a series of stories that should be better than Christmas in July: It's football in June.

Whether it's featuring Grace Academy's struggle to keep its program going after the devastating tornadoes of Easter 2020, the return to normalcy for area teams as pandemic restrictions go away, an exploration of what brought on the rash of recent coaching changes — nine since April — or McCallie's quest for a third straight state title and who else might be contenders, this series is designed to inform our readers of the storylines to watch for as the season draws near.

Considering all six of our area's Tennessee Mr. Football semifinalists as well as all but six of the 90 total Times Free Press Best of Preps players from last season have graduated, new names will emerge to take center stage and lead their teams. We will spotlight some of the likely candidates for the top players to watch.

The eyes of the state's prep football fans will focus on Chattanooga as the season begins and ends at Finley Stadium, which will host the preseason jamboree extravaganza as well as this year's nine BlueCross Bowl state championship games — both of which run for three days.

There are no more COVID-19 restrictions to limit what teams are allowed to do during preseason workouts, and once the season begins, TSSAA executive director Bernard Childress has said he expects things to be back to normal in terms of the number of fans in stands.

So let's tee it up and start looking ahead to kickoff.

"Our kids were grinning ear to ear just when we handed out their pads for practice," Boyd Buchanan coach Jeremy Bosken said. "Just being back out there together, it's a completely different feeling than we had this time last year. There's a lot of excitement again."

Contact Stephen Hargis at shargis@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6293. Follow him on Twitter @StephenHargis.

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