Cleveland head coach Marc Morris was talking about his first-year varsity program, but he could have been talking about anybody on opening night. "We don’t know what to expect out of our kids," Morris told Mike Potter last week. "You can play all the JV games you want and it’s not like playing varsity football.
“Hopefully we’re going to put 11 boys out there, compete, and try to get the kids to understand what it means to play at a varsity level."
The 2011 high school football season opens for everybody across the state tonight and although we have some ideas of what we'll see, nobody really knows. We know it'll be a special night for Cleveland and Corinth Holders, who are taking the field in a football game that really matters for the first time in their schools' short histories.
It'll also be a special night for other reasons for everybody else out there. The seniors start a year they'll never forget, knowing that their leadership is a key element of the season. Many of the juniors and sophomores who will take to the field will be doing so without any varsity experience to rely on. They've heard it's different that junior varsity play again and again but until that first hit, they will not know how much different.
The same can be said of the first-year head coaches who will be in charge for the first time in a game that counts tonight.
Whatever happens, we'll be here to chronicle it all. With live Twitter updates throughout the night @prepsnow or @dclaybest, photo galleries after the games here, box scores and game stories both here.
As we look at the schedule in the Garner and Johnston County area tonight, here's a few things you might want to look out for.
Garner at Enloe, 7
The Trojans get their first of four tests defensively against a spread team at Enloe. Garner's breaking in a almost all new secondary, so they'll need to grow up fast and their defensive line mates will need to provide a little help as well with a pass rush.
Cleveland at North Johnston, 7:30
North Johnston is a veteran team, while Cleveland lines up a team that doesn't have a senior in its first outing. North will not have a size advantage though. Can Cleveland's youngsters control the line of scrimmage?
Midway at South Johnston, 7:30
South's ready to get to football after a rough off-season and the Trojans should be ready to start putting up the points as well. The Trojans return nine starters from an offense that averaged 40 points a game last season.
Green Hope at Smithfield-Selma, 7:30
Green Hope's football fame right now is all tied to its 38-game losing streak (the longest in the state). SSS is young but more sure about themselves after a full off-season under second-year head coach Frank Lassiter. Question is, who gets off to the better start and can the team that doesn't keep its head up throughout the night?
Clayton at Cardinal Gibbons, 7:30
Clayton wouldn't be the team you'd expect to be playing in the first artificial turf prep football game ever played in the Triangle area of North Carolina, but that's exactly where the Comets will be Friday night as Cardinal Gibbons debuts its $800,000 Astroturf field. Clayton will look to get its wing-T attack rolling early and get new quarterback Daquain Thomasson comfortable early.
West Johnston at Fuquay-Varina, 7:30
The Wildcats have everything they need to improve on a 4-7 mark from last year, but face a tough test on the road against Fuquay-Varina. West will need to keep its talented linebackers free of blockers against the Bengals' wing-T attack, while giving quarterback Justin Carroll time to throw on offense.
Millbrook at Southeast Raleigh, 7:30
Two of the more high-profile teams in the area meet on opening night. Southeast is smaller than normal but as quick as ever. The Bulldogs will need to be against Keith Marshall, one of the top-ranked running backs in the nation. Southeast's big plays will likely come from the arm or feet of senior quarterback David Washington. This could be a shootout or a 10-7 game.
Princeton at Hobbton, 7:30
Princeton's spread passing attack look productive in scrimmages last week. But the Bulldogs will have to control Hobbton's ground attack and make sure they go North-South with the ball to try to offset what should be a speed advantage on the home team's side.
Edenton Holmes at Corinth Holders, 7:30
Corinth Holders makes its varsity debut at home in front of what should be a big and vocal crowd. Holmes will have to get used to playing on the road if it wants to be successful, four of the Aces' first six games are on the road.
Wake Christian at Chatham Central, 7:30
The Bulldogs' light numbers (less than 30 on the team) gets its first test on a hot night. Can Wake Christian score enough on offense and hold up enough on defense to open the season with a road win?