The 2013 high school football season kicks-off Friday night with hopes high and expectations aplenty.
Here is a quick look at the lid-lifters on tap for Friday night.
Columbia City at Warsaw, 7 p.m.
A strong senior class has Warsaw coach Phil Jensen excited about his squad.
The Tigers, who finished 6-4 a year ago, host the Eagles. Warsaw won 20-14 at Columbia City in 2012.
“We’re anxious and excited to play,” said Jensen, whose roster boasts 23 seniors this fall. “I’ve been pleased. I liked our effort in the scrimmage (at Tippecanoe Valley last Friday night).”
Warsaw star tailback Tristan McClone ran wild in the opener at City a year ago. McClone, now a senior, went on to set a single-season school rushing record with 1,718 yards while scoring 16 touchdowns.
The Tigers also welcome a healthy Austin Head in the mix. The senior quarterback missed time late last season due to a shoulder injury, but looked very good in the scrimmage last week.
“We have to have solid special teams play, take care of the football and not allow the big play,” said Jensen. “City’s quarterback is a good athlete and they play hard up front.”
City finished 5-6 a year ago. They do return quarterback Travis Herbst, but lost do-it-all performer Jared Murphy.
Warsaw receivers Chad Goon and Riley Rhoades are both questionable for the opener due to injuries.
Whitko at Wawasee, 7:30 p.m.
The opener in Syracuse features a pair of new coaches.
Josh Ekovich takes over the reigns of a Wawasee program that surged at the end of 2012. Ekovich was the offensive line coach under Tom Wogomon, who is now the Northridge coach.
Josh Mohr, a former player and assistant coach, takes over the Whitko program.
Wawasee looks to build on the momentum of a 7-5 season a year ago. The Warriors won five of their final six games before losing to NLC foe Concord in a Class 4-A sectional final.
The Warriors welcome back juniors Gage Reinhard and Clayton Cook, who formed quite the duo last season. Cook hauled in 33 of Reinhard’s passes for 624 yards and nine of his 10 touchdowns.
Wawasee won 20-7 in South Whitley to open the 2012 campaign.
Whitko looks to bounce back from a 4-7 season in which close losses and turnovers were the storyline.
“I was pleased with our performance in the scrimmage. However, we have some little things to correct and improve on,” said Mohr. “We have had a good week of practice. We take it one week at a time and want to get better each week.”
The Wildcats lost all-purpose threat quarterback Alex Stoddard, a three-year starter. They do return a powerful backfield, led by juniors Devin Gerding and Tanner Hughes, who combined for almost 1,500 yards last year.
“Wawasee always plays a hard hitting and intense game,” noted Mohr. “They are a quality program and well coached. We have to do the little things well and be focused on Friday. As always ball security plays a big role in any game.”
Caston at Triton, 7 p.m.
The Trojans look to start rebuilding as coach John Johns makes his debut Friday night.
Triton finished 1-9 a year ago and has five wins in the last three seasons. The Trojans, who averaged only 13.9 points-per-game in 2012, lost 28-20 at Caston last year.
Johns, who spent the last four years at Harrison, likes the work of his team.
Tippecanoe Valley at Culver Academies, 7:30 p.m.
Jeff Shriver admits he was not feeling so good about his team after its Monday practice earlier this week.
The Valley coach was much more upbeat after seeing his squad respond Tuesday night.
“I feel much better about us after the practice we had and the progress we made Tuesday,” said Shriver in a phone interview Wednesday. “If you would have asked me Monday night I would have had a different answer for you. But, we had a much better practice Tuesday and I feel more confident now.”
The Vikings are sure to be amped up to play the Academy. Valley dropped a tough 27-22 final at home to them in 2012.
“We had a couple of opportunities against them last year and didn’t take advantage of them,” said Shriver. “We just need to get off to a good start this time and we have to finish.”
Valley returns plenty of talent from its 8-3 team that claimed a share of its second straight TRC title. The Vikings have star wideout Tanner Andrews back in the mix, along with veteran quarterback Ben Shriver and Nolan Sponseller. The key for Valley is in the trenches.
“The Academy is physical up front on both lines and our guys up front have to take it to the next level,” said Shriver.
The Vikings will be without senior tight end Josh Tucker and junior receiver/defensive back Brice Adams Friday. Tucker had ankle surgery recently and Adams had surgery Tuesday on a broken collarbone.
The Eagles finished 7-3 a year ago. Senior quarterback Hayes Barnes is a three-year starter for Culver, a team that averaged 218 yards rushing per game last season. Tailback Pierre Byrne is also a threat.