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Kinston head football coach Rudy Free said he’s never had an open date before, but the Bulldogs may not mind the breather midway through this season.

Kinston plays four of its first five games on the road, including starting the season on Aug. 21 at Class 3A Houston Academy and on Aug. 28 at Class 2A Zion Chapel.

A home game to open Class 1A, Region 1 against Brantley follows on Sept. 4, followed by region games at Red Level and Georgiana on Sept. 11 and Sept. 18, respectively.

That’s where that open date may come in handy — before home games against Florala on Oct. 2 and McKenzie on Oct. 9.

“I’ve never had an open date, but I’m thinking where we’ve got it, it may help us,” Free said last week. “Last year we probably could have used a little break in there.”

The Bulldogs didn’t have a lot of change in their region after the AHSAA’s two-year realignment. Elba moved up to 2A and Samson moved down to 1A. Samson was a nonregion game last year, but will be a region opponent this season.

The rest of the region is the same — Brantley, Florala, Georgiana, McKenzie, Pleasant Home and Red Level in addition to Samson and Kinston.

Free said the trick is scheduling nonregion games.

“Nonregion, you want to have a balance of teams you can compete with against teams that can test you,” the coach said. “Plus, you don’t want to get too far out of your classification.

“It’s kind of hard at the 1A level because you almost have to play up. There’s nobody really that close in 1A except your region schools. I wanted to stay in the 1A and 2A, but sometimes you can’t do that. HA will be a really good test for us. Hopefully we can compete with them. Zion Chapel will be a good one. There’s a rivalry there.”

The regular season ends with a non-region game against another 1A team. Barbour County fell to 1A and Kinston has a road contest scheduled for Oct. 30 in Clayton. It will be the Bulldogs’ sixth road game this season.

“I think it’s a good schedule,” Free said. “I think it’s one we can compete with most everybody. It’s a tough region with Brantley, Georgiana, Florala and Samson moving in.”

The Bulldogs lost five seniors from last year’s team.

“They were good players, there weren’t a lot of them,” he said. “We’ve got most of our offensive line back and that’s a good thing always. Plus, we had some young players step up and play more and more late in the year. Hopefully, we can stay healthy — and that open week will help us.”

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