Everyone begins with a clean slate on opening night of the high school gridiron campaign. They all perform on a level playing field at least until the old pigskin is booted for the first time.
All five Phillips County high schools are in action tonight. For the three public schools, Friday night lights will be turned on for the first time as the dress rehearsals are finally complete. Now they play for keeps.
On tap tonight are Central at Dollarway, DeWitt at Barton, Hermitage at Marvell, Greenville Christian at DeSoto and Delta Academy is at Marvell Academy.
Central is the lone team on the road this week as they travel to Dollarway in hopes of avenging a 44-14 laugher at their expense a year ago. The Cougars are coming off a very disappointing 2-8 season, which landed them in seventh place in the 5A Central Conference 2012 standings.
With 10 returning starters on offense including quarterback Curley Brewer and nine on defense, the Cougars' luck may change in 2013. Central's offense looked impressive in a preseason scrimmage last Friday evening against the Blytheville Chickasaws in which the Cougars scored the first three times they got their hands on the football.
Preseason prognosticators picked the Cougars to finish sixth in the 8-team 5A Central.
Dollarway is the early season favorite to win the 2-4A Conference. The Cardinals finished 10-2 in 2012 before bowing out of the second round of the playoffs, 34-24 to Highland. The Cardinals have seven returning starters on both sides of the line of scrimmage.
Barton opens at home against the DeWitt Dragons before hitting the road for four consecutive weeks. The Bears shut out the Dragons 29-0 on opening night at DeWitt last fall. The Bears return seven starters on offense and defense led by versatile quarterback Laquarius Hall. Hall rushed for more than 500 yards and scored nine touchdowns in 2012. He also tossed 10 TD passes. Speedy running back Cameron Anderson also returns. Anderson accounted for 1,200 yards on the ground and 10 touchdowns.
The Bears finished the 2012 campaign at 10-2, losing in the second round of the playoffs at Paris. Barton figures they have some unfinished business, a deeper run in the playoffs.
DeWitt was 1-8 a year ago and have not appeared in the playoffs since 2000. The team is relatively young with six starters returning on offense and defense.
Marvell and Hermitage were involved in a close one at Hermitage last year. The Hermits came away with a 22-18 victory. Meanwhile, the Mustangs are hoping to post their first victory since 2010.
Both teams are experienced with almost all starters returning offensively and defensively. The Hermits and the Mustangs have not been to the playoffs since 2007 and 2008 respectively.
All games kick off at 7 p.m.