With eight starters back on offense and seven on defense, most of the names are the same for the Grand Island Senior High football team.

But that doesn’t mean everything will stay the same with the Islanders this year.

Those familiar names will be debuting new uniforms, just another reason for the players to be excited about the upcoming season.

"I think it’s a fresh change," coach Jeff Tomlin said of the new unis. "It’s a lot of fun. Kids were looking forward to it. Kids went out and earned the money for it, so they’ve worked hard for it. I think they’re going to be awful proud and our fans are going to be awful proud of the product we put on the field effort-wise, and we’re going to look sharp too.

"You always want to play the best you can and have the best effort. It’s not all about the uniforms. But it is nice to look sharp too."

Other cosmetic changes include flipping around and using the west side of Memorial Stadium as the Islanders’ sideline and putting the visitors on the east side.

"We’ll be on the west side this year changing from the east side, which is what we’ve done the last nine years," Tomlin said. "We’ll go back to the west side for a lot of different reasons, but mainly because we’ve redone that east side and put underground sprinkling in. It’s really nice looking, so there’s going to be no tailgating over there.

"We’ll be able to tailgate in our brand new parking lot. It’s conducive for our fans with our new restrooms to be able to tailgate and then walk right in on this west side. For us, I think it’ll be an OK thing. I hope it will be for the fans too."

Even though the opponents on the schedule remain the same, there are changes there, too.

Instead of opening with three out of four home games like last year, the Islanders now have to face trips to Lincoln Northeast, Omaha Westside and Norfolk over the first month.

"It’ll definitely be a challenge because our schedule is tough," Tomlin said. "We have three of our first four on the road and then you throw in some Thursday games.

"With the road games, it is what it is. We just have to fight through it and be road warriors. I think we’ll respond favorably to it."

A scheduling oddity finds Grand Island playing one-third of its games on Thursdays, starting with this week’s opener against Lincoln Northeast at Seacrest Field.

The Islanders also have Thursday road games against Norfolk on Sept. 19 and Lincoln North Star on Oct. 10.

That leads to a couple of short practice weeks, but Tomlin said there are nice benefits to those games.

"I like to think of the Thursday games as a positive," he said. "They are featured games around the state. Not too many teams are playing on Thursday, so the attention kind of goes to those games.

"It gives our kids an extra day of recovery for some weeks. It gives us a chance to get out and scout on Friday, which we don’t often get to do. We’re going to treat those as a positive and our kids will respond to them."

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