The 2013 football season kicks off tonight with all four teams playing in Surry County.
Mount Airy, North Surry and Surry Central are at home, while East Surry will be in Dobson with the Golden Eagles.
The Bears take on Starmount, while North Surry meets its former coach, Brian Hampton, and the Ashe County Huskies.
This is the first season in the new conference alignment.
The Bears and Cardinals are part of the new Northwest Conference with only 1A schools participating.
North Surry and Surry Central are part of the newly formed Western Piedmont 2A Conference.
So even though Eagles/Cards should be a great rivalry game, it no longer counts toward the teams’ league standings.
Will having these teams in separate conferences lessen tonight’s game?
“That won’t take away from this game,” said East Coach David Diamont. East Surry versus Surry Central always makes for a good contest, he said.
The closeness of the players and families is part of what makes the games special, he said. The guys know their opponents or are even related to them, he said, and sometimes even the parents have a friendly rivalry with each other.
“We are looking for a big crowd,” said Central Coach Monty Southern. “We’re hoping to pack the stands.”
Looking ahead to tonight, Diamont said his team has the usual bumps and bruises, but the only known injury holding someone out is a sore knee for Jacob Chattin, an offensive guard.
Southern said his Eagles need to protect the ball and not commit turnovers. They need to take advantage of their possessions, he said.
As for his opponent, Southern said the defense will have to contain QB John Dickenson and limit his big plays. The quarterback is a threat with both his legs and arm.
Dickenson is the only returning starter at quarterback of the four local schools. He and backup John Snow could both see snaps in this one.
When the Bears take on the Rams, Coach Kelly Holder, said, “We are expecting a dogfight. They are always a hard team.”
“They are very well coached and always have good players,” said Holder. “It never changes.”
Holder’s son, Logan, takes the reins at QB with the graduation of all-conference selection Austin Taylor.
As for the Hounds facing their former leader, Coach Danny Lyons said of the Huskies, “We know they are going to be a well-coached football team. … They won’t beat themselves, so we have to play mistake-free football.”
Like when Hampton was leading Josten Phipps to a 2,000-yard season, Hampton will run the ball a lot out of the I formation, said Lyons. The two offenses will look similar.
The Huskies are usually big and strong, and this year is no exception.
The Hounds return RB Blaze Acord, who broke Phipps’ record for rushing yards in a season.
In JV action Thursday, Lyons said the Huskies scored 13 points in the first quarter and held for a 13-0 win.
Staff reporter Tanya Chilton contributed to this article.