It is finally here, the first week of High School Football has all four teams in Rutherford County with a contest this Friday night, August 18th.
Only R-S Central is at home this weekend, with East Rutherford heading to Norwood, Chase visits nearby Columbus and Thomas Jefferson goes to Pickens, SC.
McDowell at R-S Central
This is the game of the week with Brad Hutchins beginning his first Friday night as the head coach of the Hilltoppers. When chatting a couple of weeks ago with Hutchins, this Friday is a big Friday in his mind for the Hilltopper community.
This Friday will set the tone for the season and Hutchins knows it's up to him to get them to play ever down as a family.
The Hilltoppers offense is still questionable, but defensively, they feel alright about things. So, we will see. Devin Littlejohn likely will see more touches from the backfield and Damarcus Johnson's instinct and speed are exactly what Central's defense needs in order to keep McDowell honest.
McDowell always seems to make it tough for R-S Central throughout the years, no matter what. Ben Ballew tossed nine touchdown passes and threw for over 1200 yards last season at quarterback for McDowell. Ricky Amador heads up the defense for the Titans. McDowell has nobody returning as a potent running back, but I expect them to run the ball half the time in some sort of wingback formation.
Notes: The last Central head coach won in his debut (Mike Cheek) in 2004. Lucky 7's? Central defeated McDowell in 1997 and in 2007.
Pick: R-S Central
East Rutherford at South Stanly
Like East, South Stanly won four games a year ago, but East Rutherford rides a two-game winning streak from last year. The Bulls of South Stanly didn't generate a lot of offense last season, but Jahwan Morris and Tony Lofton will be the primary ball-carriers. They don't throw the ball much and Noah Carpenter is the best defensive player returning for the Bulls.
Demetrius Mauney will likely be the most elusive on the field on offense as East Rutherford has a linebacker by the name of Cade Hamilton that should get plenty of work this Friday considering the running game they face. Josh Wilson also came along at the end of the year for the Cavs on defense.
The issue is that the Cavs will have to drive a long way to play, but they should be athletic enough to take care of business on the road. The Cavaliers had lost eight season opening games in a row until last year's 43-0 drubbing of East Henderson.
Pick: East Rutherford
Chase at Polk
Last year, Chase lost 34-28.
The Trojans do have linebackers Mike Singletary and Grant Lanser to lead the defense, but the question that remains is...Can Chase score the ball enough on Polk? Xaiver Williams leads the offense as the feature back for Chase. Chase will need to make it a low scoring affair, find somebody to carry the offense on their shoulders and find a way to spy Overholt.
On the other hand, Polk will have veteran coach Bruce Ollis back after leaving to take a job at a South Carolina School for a few seasons. Ollis is a wild one himself among coaching styles. He could go for it on fourth down, he could throw an unusual offensive formation to mix things up.
Ollis will have Dillon Overholt to navigate at quarterback as he threw and rushed for a combined 2300 yards last season and Elijah Sutton as the feature back. Pick: Polk
Thomas Jefferson at Carolina Wildcats
Thomas Jefferson will head to Pickens County this Friday.
The Wildcats have a limited roster of around 20-25 kids at most. Most are back from a year ago as they went 5-5 a year ago. They are predominantly a rushing team who lost their two best rushers to graduation during the offseason. Cameron Jackson is the best athlete they have who can catch passes and run the football.
Meanwhile, the Gryphons just have to come to play. If Bill Lay and Nomi McMullens can wear down the Wildcats defensive line, they should have no problem in getting the season opening win. Thomas Jefferson has won their last five season openers.