Below is an in-depth look at all of the area games for Week 0.
Era at Blue Ridge
ERA — Era coach J.D. Henderson kicks off his sixth year of coaching against a familiar foe in Friday’s season opener.
The Blue Ridge Tigers, who were in the Hornets district for a few years prior to February’s realignment, look to be an up-and-coming program, despite a lack of success over the years.
With 19 lettermen returning and seven starters on offense and nine on defense, Blue Ridge could be one of Era’s toughest non-district opponents.
“They’re really good defensively,” coach Henderson said. “Blue Ridge has improved exponentially over the last two years. They were better last year than they’ve been. We feel like that’s a program that’s on the rise. In their two scrimmages, they looked really solid. Their defense looked really good. We’ll have to play really solid to give ourselves a chance to win.”
But Blue Ridge also boasts a salty offensive package that includes a heavy passing attack.
Quarterback Shawn McCarley will be a first-year starter, but has a flurry of receivers to throw to in Cody Mills and Jace Koonce. Running back Brennan Smith is another offensive weapon out of the backfield.
“We’re familiar with their system,” adds Henderson. “The good thing about playing someone that you’ve played the past couple of years is you can use previous game film to help plan. I don’t think it’s an advantage, but it definitely helps.”
As for the Hornets, who return one of, if not their largest, senior class since Henderson came to Era in 2005, are hoping that experience leads to less turnovers and less mental mistakes.
“Offensively, we’re looking to see execution with no mental errors,” said coach Henderson. “We made a lot of mental errors in our second scrimmage, not turn the ball over, stuff like that. Defensively, we’re looking for guys to fly around, be aggressive, not get beat deep with the pass.”
Era harps on making big plays on special teams, and that strategy does not elude the 2010 version of the Hornets either.
Muenster at Ponder
MUENSTER — Friday’s game will feature a couple of firsts for Muenster and Ponder.
For the Hornets, coach Brady Carney will step on the football field for his first game as a varsity head coach.
“I’m a little nervous, but excited and want to play well, play hard,” Carney said. “We want them to swarm to the ball.”
As for Ponder, this will be their first varsity game in a UIL-sanctioned district.
“They've been playing an outlaw schedule the last three or four years,” Carney said. “That worries us a little bit because they will come out excited and fired up. I feel like I'm going to see a team fired up and ready to play. They've got a junior class that's pretty talented, a quarterback that's 6-3, 200, athletic and can throw.”
Ponder is perenially a basketball-first oriented athletic program, but since the school voted to add football in 2007, it remains to be seen if that athleticism will translate to success on the gridiron.
Muenster comes into 2010 after making a deep run in the playoffs in Division II last season.
But with a new quarterback and a huge void to fill on the offensive and defensive lines, the Hornets are looking to find their niche early on this season, and that all starts with coach Carney and his staff, who is trying to build up the team’ intensity level.
“I feel like they've accepted what I've preached to them,” he said. “They played hard against Windthorst. Got down 13-0 in the first half. They fought back and made some things happen, but I liked the intensity and how they came back.
“They're flying around. We're suiting up 17 kids. Depth is really an issue with us, but I've feel like we've worked hard enough and so I'm looking forward to it, the kids are buying into it, it's just going to take a little while.”
Lindsay at Tom Bean
LINDSAY — With the void left by a bevy of seniors and three coaches, the Lindsay Knights are hoping non-district can help them correct a slew of mistakes from their two scrimmages.
Head coach Cody Bounds knows that these mistakes, some of which are coming from the senior class, are not what gets a team to the postseason.
Fortunately, Friday’s match-up with Tom Bean is part of a five-part audition before district play begins in October.
“We’re making a lot of mistakes right now,” Bounds said of the Knights. “We have a lot of seniors making mistakes and that's hiurting us. We’ve got to get those fixed fast. The first two scrimmages we just didnt play very well. We've been working very hard to fix those. It's a long season, but we've got to get it cranked up.”
Tom Bean is a very familiar opponent and Bounds knows the Tomcats will come to play.
“It's gonna be a tough game, they'll be very well coached,” he said. “It's the first game, they’ll make mistakes, we'll make mistakes, so whoever makes the least will win the game. They'll play really, really hard and hopefully we can play better than we have in our scrimmages.”
Sacred Heart at Petrolia
MUENSTER — Mistakes seem to be a common theme to harp on in the opening week of high school football around the area.
That theme is a strong point of Sacred Heart head coach Dale Schilling, who hopes Friday’s contest against Petrolia will help rid his team of those mental errors.
“Being the first game, I’m hoping to eliminate mistakes,” Schilling said. “I think if we can focus and stay away from hurting ourselves (we have a chance to win).”
Petrolia boasts a prolific spread attack with size at the offensive line and talent at the skill positions, which could give the Tigers some fits on defense.
But another concern of the Tigers is depth, which is very thin as the Tigers will suit up very few varsity players this week.
“We’re pretty healthy right now,” Schilling adds. “We’re banged up a little bit with the scrimmages.”
Gunter at Valley View
VALLEY VIEW — The biggest challenge Valley View faces early in the season is switching their offensive mentality from pass to run.
With the experience the Eagles return in 2010, first-year coach Kurtis Kloiber has been touting that mentality since the beginning of two-a-days.
“They have kind of been a pass-first offense, so we’ve got to get that mentality that we are going to run the football, and you got to be a little mean and nasty sometimes to do that,” Kloiber said after a recent practice. “We’re still developing that, but I think our run game can be pretty good because we’ve got some threats.”
The Eagles get a chance to test their new mentality Friday at home against a hard-nosed Gunter team, that finished 11-1 last year and was a Division I area finalist.
The Tigers return just three starters on both sides of the ball, however, but do have 14 lettermen returning.
Gunter has a chance to be another tough 2A team this year as many of its JV players from last year’s 9-0 team move up to varsity.
Quarterback Richard Young takes the snaps for the Tigers, but had just two starts last season.
What may give the Eagles an edge is linebacker and running back Leo Castorena, who rushed for 495 yeards and four touchdowns last season on offense and recorded 94 tackles with three interceptions on defense.
Kloiber has preached to his team that the defense needs to stop the run, be sound against the passing game and win the turnover ration. Defense is a big formula for success for Kloiber, who of course comes from the 2009 Class 2A Division I state champion Pilot Point Bearcats.
Callisburg at Bonham
CALLISBURG — The Wildcats begin a 2010 season Friday with a lot of question marks.
Will quarterback Colten Holder be another great product of a strong offensive scheme?
Will the offensive and defensive lines, which return zero starters, fill the void from 2009?
Will Clay McKenzie step in to fill the shoes left by all-state running back Langston Jones?
While there are plenty of other questions needing answered, the aforementioned ones are what could make or break the Wildcats, who begin 2010 with Class 3A Bonham.
The Purple Warriors are coming off an 0-10 season, but return 21 lettermen with four starters on offense and seven on defense.
The young, inexperience Purple Warriors from 2009 have done some growing up as six sophomores started last season and now return with experience.
Defense appears to be the strong point for Bonham, which returns three of its top tacklers from last year, Levi Haggard, Josh Price and Josh Samford, who plays free safety.
Offensively though, the Purple Warriors sport a new quarterback and running back, much like the Wildcats.
It appears that whoever makes the least mistakes could come out the victor. With it being the first game of the season, expect a lot of them.
Howe at Collinsville
COLLINSVILLE — Entering his sixth year at Collinsville, head coach Danny David has a ton of experience returning and the Pirates are eyeing big things in 2010.
Their first stop on the Class A Division I state championship tour is at home against Class 2A Howe.
The Bulldogs, who are in a district with Callisburg, are coming off a so-so 2009 campaign in which they went 4-6 and won just two of seven district games.
Collinsville quarterback Cory Ragsdale will be the backbone of the offense and looks to get big contributions from offensive threats Chris Carney and David Byrom.
The Pirates will have their hands full with returning quarterback Chase Fountaine, who threw for nearly 1,300 yards and 11 touchdowns last year. Towner Bailey is the team’s biggest home-run threat at running back. Bailey also is the team’s leading tackler with 109 total tackles to go along with three interceptions.
Decatur at Whitesboro
WHITESBORO — The most experienced returning team since Eddie Gill took over the program gets ready to lick its chops as Decatur comes to town.
Jordan Gill, who is set to be a three-year starter at quarterback, anchors the offense.
Gill will have a load of talent at the skill positions to pass to if need be as Cameron Clark, Garrett Hickman and Grayson Ezzell all return at receiver.
Running back duties will go to Eddie Ruiz and Lamar Scales, and both look to be game breakers for a team that feels it has lots of team speed to complement its experience.
Decatur comes in after a down year in 2009 after recording just two wins.
Veteran coach Kyle Story returns and hopes his team can recorrect itself from last year’s lackluster performance, having averaged eight wins the past 10 seasons.
The Eagles have a bunch of experience returning, including Tyler Hodges, who will man the quarterback position after recording 10 total touchdowns last season.
Whitesboro’s main threat will be Colton Parker at running back and linebacker. Parker recorded 732 yards and five scores in eight starts last season.
A good start for Whitesboro this week could give some added confidence to a Whitesboro team that feels this could one of the best year’s for it to make the playoffs.
Saint Jo vs. Moran
10 a.m., Saturday
SAINT JO — The Saint Jo Panthers kick off the 2010 season with one of their three games not scheduled on Friday nights.
The first is this Saturday at a neutral site against Moran.
Saint Jo is looking to capitalize on its success the past two seasons after winning back-to-back district titles in their first two years of six-man action.
Coach Chad Tallon returns for a third season and he has no doubt that this year is a good year for big things in Saint Jo as the Panthers return a ton of senior leadership and experience from his upperclassmen.
Luke Chaffin returns to run a version of the spread for the Panthers while Brady Chadick and William Phillips will help anchor an offense that scores in bunches when it clicks.
Moran is coming off a 4-6 season and returns experience as well, including all-region selection Christian Blackman at the center position.
Also look for Moran’s top offensive threats, Bailey Spencer at quarterback and running back Zeke Smith, to make some noise in Saturday’s contest.