Summer two-a-days and scrimmages soon will give way to the real thing.
Another high school football season is upon us.
There’s nothing quite like the sensory experience of a football game on a crisp evening. The sounds of bands playing at halftime and the clacking noise of shoulder pads meeting shoulder pads. The sight of exuberant cheerleaders and fans. The aroma of popcorn and hot dogs in the concession stand, nearby bonfires and freshly fallen leaves.
The early season is reserved mostly for non-league games. But they are no less exciting than the coming conference battles. For many teams, these games are about beating a neighborhood rival, making the postseason playoffs or learning where the rest of the season is headed.
Read on for some of the best early season games.
Week 1: Canton McKinley vs. Akron Archbishop Hoban
August 26, 7 p.m. at Klinefelter Field at Canton Central Catholic
Last year, Hoban pounded the Bulldogs 49-0, en route to a Division III state championship. McKinley recovered to finish 7-3 in the regular season, making the Division I playoffs.
They were eliminated in the first round in a 55-27 loss to Toledo Whitmer.
Hoban is expected to be as good this year as last, so this will be a good measuring-stick game for the Pups in coach Dan Reardon’s second year at the helm.
Week 2: GlenOak vs. Massillon Washington
September 1, 7 p.m. at GlenOak Commings Field
This annual contest has turned into a rivalry between the Tigers and one of the Federal league’s finest, the Golden Eagles.
Last year, Glenoak toppled the Tigers 37-21, but the previous five games between these two were decided by a combined 10 points. One of the most memorable probably was Massillon’s 23-20 triple-overtime victory in 2013.
Big playoff points likely will be on hand for the winner of this one.
Week 2: North Canton Hoover vs. Louisville
September 2, 7 p.m. at North Canton Memorial Stadium
These two schools have been playing each other forever … well, almost. This will be the 94th time the two have met on the football field.
Louisville leads the all-time series between these two perennial powers 55-33-5. Last year, the Leopards topped the Vikings 33-20, on their way to a state playoff season.
Beginning with a Louisville win in 2009, the teams have traded victories every other year.
September 2, 7 p.m. at Perry
Talk about neighborhood rivals. It doesn’t get much more backyard than this. The two schools are both located in Perry Township, a little more than a mile apart.
Last year, the Panthers took it to the Crusaders in a 49-17 rout. But both teams went on to incredible campaigns.
Perry lost to Cincinnati LaSalle 42-0 in the Division II state championship game to finish 12-3. Central Catholic finished 11-4, losing 35-18 to Coldwater in the Division V title game.
Week 2: Dalton vs. Tuslaw
September 2, 7 p.m. at Dalton McFarren Field
The two schools compete in different leagues. Tuslaw is in the Principals Athletic Conference, and Dalton is in the Wayne County Athletic League.
They don’t even share the same county as a residence. Tuslaw is in Stark, and Dalton is in Wayne County.
However, the two schools are only about six miles apart, both situated near their respective county borders. Tuslaw has won 6 of the last 10 meetings, including last year’s 28-0 blanking of the Bulldogs.
Week 4: Central Catholic vs. St. Thomas Aquinas
September 15, 7 p.m. at Central Catholic Klinefelter Field
Stark County’s version of the Holy War. This annual meeting of parochial powers usually means a lot of computer playoff points at stake.
This year’s version is the 51st time the schools will meet on the field. Central Catholic won state titles in 1988 and 2000 and was runner-up each of the last two seasons to Coldwater. The Knights won a state title in 1984.
Last year, Central Catholic pummeled the Knights 39-0.