It all starts right here.
Ever since Thanksgiving the likes of the IHSAA football world have been awaiting the chance to get back on the gridiron. Weights have been lifted, sweat has poured out by the pints, and vicious summers spent giving every ounce of energy has come to the moment.
Can you smell it in the air? Can you see the lights of your local stadium shining in the distance? Can you feel the buzz around town?
For the next four months your friends, neighbors, sons, students, nephews, and summer lawn-mower is going to be the local hero of your hometown. No lockouts, no contract disputes, no worries about boosters handing out checks to play for your school.
It all starts right here. It all starts Friday night.
So as always, if you're wondering what games to check out, here are my picks for the top six games for week one of the 2011 IHSAA football season.
1. Avon vs. Hamilton Southeastern
Just proof that there's no such thing as a gimme in the Hoosier Crossroads Conference. Considering the fact that one loss could be the difference in winning and losing the HCC, this game could make or break one of these team's season. Can the Avon defense find a way to limit Senior quarterback Jake Jones and his go-to highlight reel machine Gary Harris Jr.? The Royals won pretty easily 35-14 last season, but don't be surprised if Coach Bless' squad is more prepared for opening night then in his first season.
2. Columbus East vs. Greenwood
Let the Gunner Kiel games begin! Last year the Olympians trounced Greenwood 48-13, and barring any strange occurrences, there's a good chance Indiana Hoosiers fans will see Kiel light up the scoreboard again. And if Kiel wants to make this year extra special, going for a chance to become Mr. Football and follow in the steps of current Hoosier Tre Roberson, he's going to need to pad his stats in games like this.
3. Fishers vs. Noblesville
Here's the game that I'm personally most interested in. How will the Fishers Tigers respond in their first game back from a Class 5A State championship? Outside of their offensive and defensive line, the Tigers will have a lot of new faces in the quarterback and skill positions. Noblesville Head Coach Lance Scheib has yet to have a .500 season with the Millers, but in his fourth year at helm, what a huge boost of confidence it would be for his squad to steal the season opener at home.
4. North Central vs. Pike
Derrick Moyers' Pike Red Devils squad has a total of seven more football players that will be returning to varsity this year then the Fox 59 Sports department. Which would be a good thing of course, if they were playing the Fox 59 Sports department. But with 14 junior varsity players taking the leap Friday night against North Central, it'll be very fun to watch how the Red Devils respond underneath the lights for the very first time. There's not a doubt in my mind by time the Conference Indiana schedule starts up that Moyers' squad will be at full blast, but the Red Devils do have some talent on defense in defensive back Jonathan Reed and defensive end David Kenney.
5. Ben Davis vs. Cathedral (Saturday, Lucas Oil Stadium)
I went as far as saying that Cathedral will undoubtedly be playing in the Class 4A State championship at Lucas Oil Stadium in my preseason Pick Six column. I also went on air last Friday night saying that I believe Ben Davis, who's returning a ton of talent on the defensive side of the ball, could make a surprise run to the Class 5A SemiState. So what does that mean for Saturday? The game that's royally going to set the tone for the rest of the season for one of these football powerhouses.
6. Gary West vs. Hobart
Okay, I know this should belong to the "Dream Team" that is #3 nationally ranked Warren Central. But they are going to DESTROY Merrillville Friday night, just as they had their way with the Pirates by a grand total of 110 points in their last three contests. So what's more interesting then the Pirates getting beat? Head one town over to the start of the Ryan Turley era in Hobart, Indiana. The Brickies have had some struggles as of late (I would argue the best "great" team being 2004, and we didn't even win a Sectional) and the Cougars almost pulled off an upset last year in a 35-30 loss. For whatever it's worth, it could actually be an entertaining game. Not only that, it could be a start of a Hobart Brickies dynasty.
Make sure to check out highlights of these games and more Friday night at 10:35 p.m. on Fox 59 Sports' "Football Friday Night". Then after the broadcast, make sure to head your way to Fox59.com/Sports for extended highlights of each game.