The weather may have warmed back up to summer-like temperatures, but fall is in the air.
The countdown has almost reached zero. In just one day’s time it will be the first “Football Friday” of the 2013 season.
Soon, the air will be filled with the smell of freshly mowed grass and the smell of the grill being fired up. Fans will be greeted by the sound of whistles, shoulder pads crunching against each other and school fight songs.
The march to the UNI-Dome begins Friday, and four area teams kick off their respective seasons in Zero Week contests.
Ready for football
“Seeing a different color jersey is going to be fun, no matter who it is,” Southwest Valley head coach Kent Bass said. “There’s a lot of opening day excitement, but hopefully not jitters. Hopefully we play fast and physical and get after them right away.”
Bass’ Southwest Valley Timberwolves open up the 2013 season 7 p.m. Friday at Tri-County, Thornburg.
It will mark the first contest for the new school created by the whole-grade sharing agreement between Corning and Villisca.
The Timberwolves will travel 153 miles away to open up the 2013 season against the Trojans.
Meanwhile, 109 miles back to the west, the Murray Mustangs play host to Glidden-Ralston in a rematch of last year’s 42-40 Zero Week classic.
“I think throughout this week, the level of excitement has definitely risen,” Murray head coach Keith Shields said. “Those first days of practice, they seem to drag along a bit. The last two days, knowing Friday is getting closer, has brough a little more enthusiasm in practice.”
And in Afton, the East Union Eagles will host the Lenox Tigers.
“They’re ready,” East Union head coach Steve Kinyon said about his players. “They want to hit somebody other than our guys. They’re anxious. That’s what I want to see. I want to see them a little anxious and ready to hit someone.”
The Timberwolves picked up Villisca’s schedule for the 2013 season, but with the whole-grade sharing agreement between Villisca and Corning, a game was lost from the schedule since the two teams were in the same district.
“We were scrambling to find a team that was willing to play week zero, and Tri-County was about the closest we could find,” Bass said.
The Timberwolves will make the long journey to eastern Iowa to open the season against a team that went 2-7 last year.
Bass said he expects Tri-County to be a good test for his team.
“Our coaches talked, we remember Tri-County three, four years ago making a good playoff run,” he said. “They return all but two players from their roster last year. Looks like they’re a nice balance of run-pass with some good-sized bodies up front. It’s always a challenge to go play someplace else, especially against a team with so many seniors.”
With the large number of players, more than 30 out for the team this year, Bass said the level of competition in practice has provided an increased level of excitement for the upcoming season.
“You get that many players competing for positions, that many players understand they may not have to play offense and defense, kids know how exciting that is,” Bass said. “To get as many people involved in our game plan as possible, that gets everybody excited. We’ve got some kids who are excited about our scheme and they’re starting to buy into our system.”
EU vs. Lenox
Last year’s Zero Week contest between the Eagles and the Tigers ended in a 56-20 Lenox victory.
The Tigers went on to finish the season 6-4, while East Union ended the year 3-7.
Kinyon said he expects a physical battle between the two teams when they meet 7 p.m. Friday in Afton.
“I expect them to come out and be very physical,” he said. “They’re a very physical team. They’ll have a pretty good running game behind them. They’ll have a different quarterback, I don’t know who that will be. We’ll just have to get after them early.”
Dustin Gordon moves from running back to succeed Masno Peterson at quarterback for the Tigers. Dustyn Rauch takes over at running back, and Caleb Lange is a primary target at end.
“It all comes down to how our offensive line comes together,” Lenox head coach Allen Dukes said. “We know East Union has some good kids back, and an experienced quarterback.”
The Murray Mustangs enter the 2013 season without a host of seniors who contributed greatly to last year’s team that made it to the UNI-Dome for the second straight season.
“It’s one of those things, you’re never quite sure,” Shields said about how his team will react on the field. “It’s a first game and we have several guys who have played a decent amount, but we have some guys in key spots — we feel like they’re ready to go, but you have to see when you step onto a field against someone else.
“For the most part, we feel pretty good about most places, but we have some spots we’ll be working a couple of guys in to find out who wants to step up and play that position for us this year.”
Last year’s Zero Week contest between the Mustangs and the Glidden-Ralston Wildcats went down to the wire, as Murray came out on top, 42-40, in a thrilling contest.
The Mustangs overcame a two-touchdown deficit at halftime, taking the lead in the final minutes before sealing the win with an interception late in the game.
“Last year was the first time we saw anything out of them, picking up a week zero game,” Shields said. “Traditionally, they’re a team, they’re going to have some big guys up front and run the ball down the throat at you. They’re a power running team, which really sets up their play action passing game. They’re run, run, run and they try to hit you with a big pass. Defensively, they bring eight guys really close to the ball and test your physicality. I know that will be a test for us there on Friday night.”
Visit www.crestonnewsadvertiser.com Friday night for a score list of Friday’s games.