High school sports returned to Galveston County this past week with the beginning of volleyball season, and in less than three short weeks, football will be back in full force to open its regular season. The following are the top items to keep an eye on as fall sports roll out.

1) Oct. 18, save the date — A budding rivalry between Clear Springs and Dickinson has become the must-see football game of the year, and the next chapter will be written Oct. 18 at Challenger Columbia Stadium. The game is essentially a de facto District 24-6A championship game (not to mention the game that decides the bragging rights of being the top team in the county).

Last year’s game, which saw Clear Springs put together a miraculous fourth-quarter rally to win, will be hard to top, but the two talent-rich teams should deliver another high quality gridiron contest. Clear Springs will seek its fourth district championship in a row, while Dickinson looks to hold that title for the first time since 2014.

2) New faces in high places — There will be one new head football coach and two new head volleyball coaches in the county, and the direction each takes their respective programs should be interesting to watch.

It should be a smooth transition for Santa Fe’s new head football coach Matthew Bentley, as he takes over a program that he has served as an assistant coach for the previous five seasons.

The Indians graduated one of their best senior classes — one that helped lead the team to the playoffs for the first time in nearly a decade — in recent memory, and Bentley will look to carry on the program’s higher standards while also rebuilding the team.

New Clear Falls head volleyball coach Alison Williams inherits one of the Houston area’s best programs with the Knights and will be tasked with keeping up those great expectations.

New Texas City head volleyball coach Glenn Kennedy is already making a positive impact on the Lady Stings with a season opening win over an Alvin team that had defeated them the previous three seasons and a quality showing in the Adidas John Turner Classic tournament. Kennedy will hope to guide Texas City to its first playoff appearance since 2015.

Other changes of note include new offensive and defensive coordinators for the Ball High Tors, which should feature new approaches on both sides of the ball.

3) Making a state-ment? — As always, expectations are high for Galveston County volleyball teams, and for many, anything less than a trip to the state tournament will be a disappointment.

Returning a strong core from last year’s team that made it to the Region III-5A championship match, Friendswood will be a popular pick to book its ticket to state, as will a loaded Clear Springs team, which returns most of its starters from last year’s regional quarterfinals appearance.

With a quality senior class, Santa Fe also has state on its mind, and the talent possessed by Clear Falls and Clear Creek should put each of those teams in position to be possible contenders, as well.

4) Playoffs?! — Last year, the playoffs were not in the picture for Ball High, Friendswood, Texas City, Clear Creek and Clear Falls, and this year brings renewed hope for each program to right that wrong.

Playing in the ultra-tough District 10-5A-I, perennial playoff teams Friendswood and Texas City were in the unfamiliar position of sitting home at playoff time last year, while Ball High missed the postseason just a season after winning its first playoff game in a decade. Clear Creek will try to vie for its first playoff appearance since winning District 24-6A in 2015, while Clear Falls will look to snap the county’s longest football playoff drought with its first playoff appearance since 2013.

James LaCombe: 409-683-5242, james.lacombe@galvnews.com or on Twitter @JamesAtGalvNews

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