1. Only one band from Texas going to Grand NationalsUnfortunately, just one year removed from five Texas bands making Grand National finals, including the 2013 Grand National Champion, only one band from the great marching band state will be making the trip this season. Flower Mound High School, 18th place finisher at the stacked BOA San Antonio Super Regional last November, will be a near-lock for semifinals and a fringe bubble band for Grand National Finals this season. Grand National Finals is certainly within reach for the program, especially considering their 11th place finish at San Antonio in 2012 and 9th place finish at the same Super Regional in 2011. When you factor in the success of Cedar Ridge and Round Rock in their first visits to Grand Nationals in 2013, it makes sense to include Flower Mound in the conversation of possible Grand National finalists in 2014. However, if Flower Mound doesn’t make finals, it will be the first Grand National finals since 2000 without a Texas band on the field. This makes the San Antonio Super Regional all the more intriguing since 99% of the groups will be competing in their final BOA event of the season. This year, San Antonio really will be "the other Grand Nationals".
2. Early season regionals containing interesting match-upsThe BOA regional season kicks off on September 20th with two great regionals in Monroeville, PA and Louisville, KY. The return of the Louisville regional will include national powerhouse Avon as well as other top Indiana groups Center Grove and Castle, who were 13th and 24th at Grand Nationals in 2013. All three of these bands will be at Grand Nationals in 2014, and this regional will give a look into what those groups need to do to ensure quality performances at Grand Nationals. While the goals of these groups are different (Avon is looking to take the Eagle in 2014 while Center Grove and Castle are battling for finals) this regional will be just as important for all three.
The next weekend, the Powder Springs regional will feature two of the best bands in the southeast, Harrison and Kennesaw Mountain. This regional should give insight into who has the edge early in the season before they compete against each other again at the Atlanta Super Regional on Halloween Weekend. Unfortunately, Harrison and Kennesaw continue to alternate years attending Grand Nats, meaning we will probably never see two Georgia bands in Grand National finals.
October 4th features the first battle of the top Texas groups. Bands like LD Bell, Hebron, James Bowie, and Marcus will be competing at the early season North Texas Regional. Not only will this give early season scores to Texas’s top groups, but the regional will also feature Flower Mound’s first show of the season and give a forecast as to what they can do in Indianapolis six weeks later.
3. Indianapolis Super RegionalThe Indianapolis Super Regional features many crazy happenings, including the reappearance of Homestead and Franklin's first appearance at the Indy Super Regional since 2009. While Grand National favorites Carmel and Avon will face off for the first time, Grand National-attending groups like Center Grove, Castle, Lake Central, Lawrence Central, Franklin, Marian Catholic, and Centerville will be able to compete against one another as a kind of dress rehearsal before they face off again in the same stadium three weeks later. The results at this regional will determine a lot as to how we view these bands before we have to lock in Grand Nationals predictions.
4. Number of Possible Grand National Finalists from IndianaWith the addition of Homestead and the limited number of Texas bands in the 2014 Grand National field, expect to see at least 4 Indiana marching bands in Grand National finals, but no more than six. I mean, you have to at least leave half the spots for out-of-staters. Avon, Homestead, and Carmel will certainly be competing against one another as previously mentioned, but groups like Lawrence Central, Center Grove, and Lake Central, and even a group like Castle or Ben Davis have a chance to make the Grand Nationals finals field an Indiana majority. This type of Grand National dominance is one of the reasons Indiana is one on the top two marching band states in the nation.
5. These lists aren't finalThere's an important fact that few remember around this time of year: many bands will enroll or withdraw in regionals later in the season. These lists are in no way final. What if Claudia Taylor Johnson decides to enroll in Grand Nationals in a couple of weeks? What if a top group in the southeast enrolled in Louisville, Jacksonville, or Powder Springs after seeing the low enrollment numbers? Luckily, we will be following these lists throughout the summer, and writing about any changes when they occur.
It looks like BOA fans will have a lot to look forward to in 2014. And as we count down the days to the first regional weekend, we can only hope that this year's batch of events and bands can live up to the excitement we witnessed in 2013.