Can you feel the electricity in the air? High school football is back.
After months of waiting and weeks of practice, things start becoming official this Friday night. The regular season kicks off Thursday in the area, with most teams hitting the fields the next day.
The University Interscholastic League shook things up with its biennial realignment, but teams have at least two weeks to prepare before district play starts.
Here is a look at what Record Star teams can expect heading into Week 1.
CALALLEN at MERCEDES
The Wildcats enter 2014 as one of the biggest mysteries in the Coastal Bend. With just four returning starters – all of which are on offense – Calallen will field a squad lacking much varsity experience.
Some questions will be answered Friday when the Wildcats travel to the Rio Grande Valley for a rematch of last year’s opener against Mercedes.
Calallen trounced the Tigers 43-0 at home last season after Mercedes’ projected starting quarterback was involved in an auto accident in the weeks leading up to the season. This year may not have the same lopsided result, however.
The Wildcats defense was one of the best in the region in 2013, with the opener being one of five season shutouts for Calallen. All 11 starters graduated – and many backups – making that side of the ball the one to watch early on.
Mercedes returns seven starters on each side of the ball from a bi-district playoff club. The Tigers lost to Flour Bluff 63-21 in the first round of the postseason.
The team is led by quarterback Rene Presas, who was the Valley’s Newcomer of the Year. He will be throwing to receiver Joshua Garza.
Whoever starts at quarterback for the Wildcats will be pitted against a talented secondary. Safety Roel Garcia leads the way there, along with Tristian Gutierrez.
TULOSO-MIDWAY vs. SINTON
Another team with just a pair of games to get ready for district competition is the Tuloso-Midway Warriors. They open up with Class 4A power Sinton.
The 3A DII state semifinalists took a 61-40 victory over T-M in last year’s opener at Warrior Stadium.
Defense will be an emphasis this year, as the Warriors gave up at least 30 points in each of the team’s five losses. Coach Brian Boone believes an experienced group will get off to a better start in 2014.
Offense should not be much of an issue with the return of nine starters. Matthew Dickson will lead the way after a 1,000-yard, all-district season. Quarterback Caleb Rozypal will command the group.
But it is the Pirates’ signal caller that will be in the spotlight.
Sinton’s Tyler Handson accounted for more than 4,000 yards of offense last season. He went 13 of 22 for 203 yards and three touchdowns through the air and ran for 220 yards and two scores more in last year’s meeting with the Warriors.
CLASS 4A DI
ROBSTOWN at ORANGE GROVE
UIL may have taken them out of the same district, but that doesn’t mean Robstown and Orange Grove won’t play each other. The two kick off the season a year after being district foes.
The Cotton Pickers enter the year with high expectations after what coach Enrique Gonzalez called a successful campaign in 2013. Robstown went 3-6 after two winless seasons in a row.
The district champion Bulldogs put a 43-8 beating on the Pickers last season. Robstown returns to the same site with a new cast.
The offense will be led by sophomore Jose Molina, a player Gonzalez has raved about in the offseason. Molina will take over in place of Riley Ramos. He will be well-protected by an offensive line returning all its starters.
The defense is led by a big line up front. Kasey Hosey, the district’s top defensive lineman in 2013, will anchor the d-line alongside Javier Hernandez. Those two creating pressure will be important for the secondary.
That group will be tested by one of the area’s top quarterbacks in OG’s Hondo Harris. Harris had more than 3,000 passing yards and 42 TDs last season, but lost his top four receivers to graduation.
JOHN PAUL II vs. SKIDMORE-TYNAN
The 2014 opener is something the John Paul II Centurions have wanted to come more than anyone in the area. Well, them and Skidmore-Tynan.
That’s because both squads went winless in 2013, and both will look to snap that losing streak and start the season undefeated.
The Centurions were forced to playing more underclassmen than seniors last year, which certainly hurt the cause.
That year of pain is now experience as the young JPII squad steps forward. Quarterback John Michael Gonzalez will return in the huddle along with a seasoned o-line.
Leonard Seals, Jared Gaza and Oscar Soliz are the big boys that will be blocking up front.