Granite City High School will begin workouts for the 2018 football season on Aug. 6, the first day teams are allowed to practice.
But for the first time in nearly a century, the Warriors won't be competing as a member of the Southwestern Conference. Instead, one of the league's charter members — with a history that goes back to 1923 — will compete this fall as an independent.
The Warriors open their season at Jersey on Aug 24. The home opener is Aug. 31 against Carbondale.
"We're excited about it. We've still got some loose ends to tie up, but we're getting ready to go. The kids and coaches, we're all looking forward to what we think can be a successful season," Warriors first-year head coach Brad Hasquin said. "Jersey coach (Ric) Johns and I were neighbors until recently, and we were out talking football one night.
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"I told him I hope he goes 8-1 in the regular season with the one loss being to us. He said he would take that."
Granite City competed in the SWC from 1923-1975, when the school split into two schools, North and South. The Warriors rejoined the league in 1985 when the schools again became one.
Although no longer a member of the SWC, the Warriors will play three teams from the conference this season. The Warriors play at Belleville West (Sept. 21) and will host Collinsville (Sept. 28) and Alton (Oct. 12). Other opponents include Howell High School in St. Charles, Mo. (Sept. 7), Carnahan at home (Sept. 14), Mater Dei at home (Oct. 5) and a road game with Galesburg to close the regular season (Oct. 19).
The Warriors opened the 2017 season with wins over both Jersey and Carbondale. But when highly touted quarterback Freddy Edwards suffered a shoulder injury against Belleville East in the third week of the season and was lost for the year, Granite City lost its final seven games to finish 2-7.
Edwards, now a junior, is healthy once again. One of eight returning starters on offense for Granite City, the 6-foot-1, 190-pound QB is hoping to lead the Warriors into the IHSA playoffs this fall.
This past spring, Collinsville High School officials announced that the 2018 football season would be the Kahoks' last in the SWC. But unlike Granite City, Collinsville will remain in the league for all other sports.
Granite City Principal Daren DePew said on Monday that the school is still exploring the possibility of joining another conference, but he declined to say which one. He did say that scheduling football games as an independent has gone well.
"When your program isn't as successful as you would like it to be, it's not that difficult to schedule because teams are more willing to play because they think a win can help them get in the playoffs. When you are successful, that's when it becomes more difficult to schedule," DePew said. "I like our schedule this year. We're just looking out for and doing what we feel is best for our kids."
Hasquin thinks the Warriors' schedule will be a challenging one, but one that could result in a successful season.
"We looked location(wise) and travelwise, and skillwise when we did our schedule," Hasquin said. "As a football program, we weren't looking to play the Chicago Bears, but (we) didn't want to play a Class 1A school either."
"Looking at our schedule, there are some games we can win and others where we're going to have to play awfully well. But we feel like we can compete. That's what is important. We know that each week we're going to go in to the fourth quarter with a chance to win the football game. That's all we can ask."