Opening night has finally arrived, and the 2013 football season is upon us.
From A to Z, here are the players and teams to watch in the weeks ahead.
A is for Athenians. Crawfordsville opens the season with both a new head coach — former Central Catholic assistant Mike Hammons — and a new turf surface for its playing field.
B is for the Bacon Bowl, the annual Week 2 meeting between Carroll and Delphi. The Cougars have high expectations with nine starters back on each side, but the Oracles are also experienced and athletic.
C is for “Chirp.” Lafayette Jeff seniors Darian Green and Matt Johnson — both Ball State recruits — give the Bronchos one of the fastest backfields in the state.
D is for Dennis, better known as “Woody” Archibald. Lafayette Jeff’s star safety piled up 105 tackles and seven interceptions last season.
E is for excellence. Since the start of the 2009 season, the Lafayette area has produced 12 sectional champions, 10 regional champions and five state champions (Central Catholic in Class A 2009-12, West Lafayette in 3A in 2009).
F is for farewell. Harrison, Lafayette Jeff and McCutcheon play their final season openers in the Hoosier Crossroads Conference Friday night. Next fall, they move to the North Central Conference.
G is for ground attack. All three of the area’s returning 1,000-yard rushers hail from Tippecanoe County: West Lafayette’s Maurice Woodard (1,415), Lafayette Jeff’s Darian Green (1,394) and McCutcheon’s Nate Deno (1,261).
H is for Harper, as in McCutcheon’s Caleb, the reigning J&C Big School Player of the Year. The 5-11, 195-pound senior posted 132 tackles last season.
I is for Iron Man, and this area has some good ones. Attica QB/LB Brady Sheridan, Carroll WR/DB Brandon Dillon, Delphi RB/DB Garrett Johnson, Southmont QB/DB Devon Burton and West Central RB/DB Parker Fritz all star on both sides of the ball.
J is for John Duvall, West Lafayette’s 6-4, 300-pound left guard. The Red Devils will send their sizeable senior all over the field to open holes.
K is for kickers, and McCutcheon has a good one. Jake Shake has drawn Division I interest for his field goal range and improving skills on kickoffs and punts.
L is for linebacker, a position that should again anchor a tough Central Catholic defense. Riz Baguisa, Joe Corcoran and Grant Voigt — all of whom played big roles down the stretch last season for the Knights — form the nucleus.
M is for Mustangs. Fountain Central is one of the best small-school football programs in the state. But how will the Mustangs bounce back from losing starting running back/linebacker Jack Bolin to a back injury?
N is for new. Hammons, Shane Fry (West Lafayette), Jamie Sailors (Frontier) and Aaron Sauter (North Newton) are new head coaches this season. Hammons and Fry make their varsity head coaching debuts Friday night.
O is for overlooked, which offensive lineman too often are. Besides Duvall, some of the area’s best include McCutcheon senior Kyle McGhee, North Montgomery senior Ryan Bennett, Twin Lakes junior Anthony Fitz, West Central senior Laz Conley and Delphi senior Brier Houston.
P is for Preston. After taking over as Central Catholic’s starting quarterback four games into last season, Ty Preston is established as the Knights’ veteran signal-caller.
Q is for quarterbacks. Five returning area players threw for 1,000 or more yards last season, led by Crawfordsville’s Travis Harris (2,106).
R is for rotation, specifically the one in the Harrison backfield. Wingbacks Arrione Cook, Cameron Greene, Drezden Johnson, Jeep Morehouse and Nick Torres give coach Tony Martin a lot of options.
S is for success, and few teams have experienced more over the past five seasons than Central Catholic. Can the Knights win another Hoosier Conference championship, and how will they fare in the Class 2A tournament?
T is for Trojans. One year after finishing 10-2, West Central opens the season ranked No. 7 in the Associated Press poll. Talented young players like Keegan Dillman, who intercepted five passes as a sophomore, are why.
U is for uncertainty. Three schools are leaving the Midwest Conference, and more could follow. But AP voters expect a competitive season after voting three teams (No. 2 Pioneer, West Central, No. 8 Winamac) into the top 10 and giving votes to another, Caston.
V is for victory. Harrison and Frontier haven’t experienced one since 2010, and players, coaches and fans are eager to end the droughts.
W is for the Wing-T. At least seven area teams, from Class A through 5A, run some variation of the fullback-featuring offense.
X is how you mark big games on your calendar. Start with McCutcheon at Lafayette Jeff on Sept. 6, which may decide who is the area’s best team, and West Lafayette at Central Catholic on Oct. 18.
Y is for Young, namely Twin Lakes’ veteran senior linebacker Kole. Despite standing just 5-8, he led the Indians with 132 tackles last season.
Z is for zebras. Remember, Friday night is opening night for the officials, too.