The more things change, the more they stay the same.
The 2014 high school football season gets under way in Madison County Friday, Aug. 29, with three home games and another on the road for the county teams. Three of the squads will also be doing so against the same squads they opened the season with last year and the other will be squaring off with a neighboring rival they’ve played for years.
West Jefferson, 7 p.m.
You’ll be hard pressed to find another game across the state better than this match up between state semifinalist from a year ago.
The Roughriders and Indians will renew their neighborhood rivalry with both teams replacing key components off last year’s state playoff teams.
West Jefferson coach Shawn Buescher knows that his team will need to be ready against a team that is always ready to play.
“We’re excited to start the season against Mechanicsburg,” Buescher said. “That’s two state semifinal teams from a year ago going against each other. It’s two great communities that love their football going against each other.”
West Jeff (12-2 last year) topped Mechanicsburg 21-6 in the road opener a year ago. The Indians were able to recover and finish the year 11-3.
London, 7 p.m.
The new-look Red Raiders take the field against a familiar foe in Urbana.
The two squads opened the season against one another a year ago with the talented Hillclimbers coasting to an easy 64-3 victory. In fact the last two openers between the two squads have resulted in lopsided London losses. The Raiders were outscored 65-14 in 2012. The last competitive opener was a 35-43 Urbana triple overtime win in 2011.
The Hillclimbers (10-1) still have the same signal caller making the decisions as Nathan Mays returns for his senior year. He started his first game as a freshman against London in the triple overtime contest in 2011 and has amassed more than 7,000 yards and thrown for 92 touchdowns heading into this season.
“Urbana has a great quarterback and we’re going to have our hands full,” first-year London coach Kyle Cutler said.
The young Raiders (2-8 last year) will be relying on a number of younger players who will be making their varsity debuts on Friday night.
Madison-Plains, 7 p.m.
The Golden Eagles have experience on their side this season when they open with 2013 state playoff qualifier Cedarville.
With its returning quarterback (Jake Vallery), running back (Travis Chaffin) and top wide receiver (Eli Williams) there is some definite firepower on the offensive side of the ball for Madison-Plains.
The biggest question mark facing coach Jason Hunt’s team is how they deal with the heightened expectations that come with a team with more experience and talent.
“We had moments of shear brilliance last year,” the coach said. “We just need to be more consistent and balanced this year.”
In last year’s opener Ceadrville (7-4) got the best of the Golden Eagles (3-7) pulling away in a 26-7 victory. Hunt expects his players to be ready from the opening kickoff.
“We know they’re going to be a very well coached team,” he said. “They’re going to be fundamentally sound and their offensive line will be big and strong. I know they graduated a lot but I expect them to be good again.”
at Marysville, 7:30 p.m.
The Pioneers (3-7) are also going to be playing in the debut of a new coach as they play their neighbors to the North with Brett Glass at the helm.
Glass has spent the last six seasons as the defensive coordinator for Alder so the experience of running onto the field as a coach won’t be a completely new experience, neither will be squaring off with the rival Monarchs.
In fact some of the school’s biggest rivalries will come in the first part of the season.
“Our biggest rivals are in the early games,” Glass said. “With Marysville, West Jefferson and Clinton-Massie those are some good programs. We’re going to find out where we are real fast.”
A year ago Marysville (7-4) won a Week 2 game against Alder 13-0.
Alder which has had back-to-back losing seasons is attempting to get back to the playoff form it had for 12 years prior.
Chris Miles can be reached at 740-852-1616, ext. 1618 or via Twitter @MadPressSports.