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Andy Roberts • OHJ file photo

Hart’s Savannah Ackley (right) races with a pack during last October’s regional cross-country meet at Benzie Central. With her older sister Adelyn graduated, Savannah inherits the mantle of leading runner for a Pirates’ team that will be shooting for a state championship three-peat.

August is here, and with it comes the knowledge that we’re closing in on my favorite season — the fall.

Nothing against the other three seasons, which each have their charms. Especially as a dad of two little guys, I’ve begun to see the virtues of summer, a season that rarely had much pull with me in my youth (despite the obvious benefit of time off school that it afforded) and certainly not in my early adulthood.

Fall, though, has always been my favorite, and especially so in this job, because I know that starting in mid-August, I get to cover games, for the most part, for 10 straight months. Telling some feature stories in the summer — and in between sports seasons — is great, but it can’t happen without those 10 months of watching the stories unfold on the athletic field.

Putting together the schedules each season, and especially for the fall, is one of my favorite routines in the job, because every date contains a new possibility. You never know what could happen, what individual performance might carry a day, what upset win might shake up the conference, what magical postseason run might await.

This fall, the storylines could be plentiful. We have, first and foremost, the Hart cross-country team, coming off two consecutive state championships, this last one with the best score in the history of the Division 3 meet. Without all-everything Adelyn Ackley, who won three individual state titles and earned a scholarship to Liberty, can the team make it three in a row? Last fall, the team’s run at state was so impressive that had Ackley’s time been taken away, Hart still would have won the title. Still armed with a large group of impressive runners, the Pirates should be up to the challenge of pursuing a three-peat.

Hart’s football team has crept up from having no varsity team in 2015, to one win in ‘16, two in ‘17 and three last year. Can they take the next step and get to four, or perhaps even post a winning record? Can Shelby and Hesperia bounce back from disappointing campaigns a year ago and recapture their form?

Can Hesperia volleyball, which won its first-ever district title on the backs of an impressive senior class last year, make another run with a younger squad? Or will Shelby, which fielded one of the youngest varsity squads you’ll ever see last season, jump-start their rebuild with a big leap forward? In Division 4, can Pentwater volleyball keep its own impressive run going after having grabbed the last six district championships?

Both Hart and Shelby soccer were impressive at times last season, and it should be interesting to see how both move forward, especially the Tigers, who lost leading scorer Matt Felt to graduation.

Watching the stories is only as fun as the atmosphere around them, though, and that’s another way in which fall is unmatched. Football and volleyball offer two of the best crowd presences there are in the area’s sports, and for a big game or meet, soccer and cross-country are right there.

It all starts next Monday, Aug. 12, with the beginning of fall sports practices. The games start not long after. I’m excited to strive to provide as much local coverage as the schedule permits, and to see how all these questions get answered, to see which incredible stories emerge, and to see which teams will capture their fans’ imaginations this fall and on into the winter and spring.

I certainly hope you’re all as ready as I am.