It's hard to believe that next week at this time area football teams will be turning their attention to week two.
Prep football season can often be compared to Christmas in the regard that so much planning, effort and work is put into that big day (or in this case season) and then it's gone in a flash.
Often times, high school football season, in the Ohio Valley, is referenced as the fastest 10 weeks of the year and there's so much validity to that because in the blink of an eye, it'll be time for the postseason.
The first game of the local season kicks off Thursday at 5 p.m. at Wheeling Island Stadium with St. John Central and Bridgeport meeting in the first game of the McDonald's OVAC Kickoff Classic.
At 6 p.m., the games at Steubenville Harding Stadium get going when host Big Red meets Woodrow Wilson from Washington D.C. The second game of the evening at Harding is Edison against Oak Glen.
For the first time in the history of the Kickoff Night, the premier game doesn't necessarily involve Big Red. The St. Clairsville-Wheeling Park matchup is drawing much of the attention this season as the Red Devils boast a pair of BCS-level college commits in Dan Monteroso (Boston College) and Michael Ferns (Michigan).
The Red Devils and Patriots are slated to kick off their seasons at approximately 7:30 p.m. at Wheeling Island Stadium.
I am a really big fan of the Thursday night openers. I think it creates a much better atmosphere and obviously it's a big ticket draw since many people are so eager for the season and anxious to get to a stadium, they'll go just about anywhere to watch a game between teams they normally could care less about.
Actually, I like what some of the schools in the Cincinnati area are doing. There are a few games on Tuesday night. The OHSAA allows the season to begin on Monday, so some are getting a jumpstart on things.
Maybe, just maybe, we can talk Kickoff Night Director James Companion into a Wednesday game at one of the venues next season. Rather than playing a game on Saturday night, play that game on Wednesday. It's really not a short week since the teams have been preparing for the opener since June in essence.
I've been covering prep football in the Ohio Valley for the past 12 years and I don't think I've ever seen a Friday schedule that has so many area teams embarking on trips that require a GPS.
For instance, Monroe Central is heading to Atwater, which is located in northeast Ohio to tangle with Waterloo High School. Martins Ferry is returning the trip to Heath, which is located near Newark.
Barnesville and Union Local are both heading west, but not as far as the Purple Riders. The Shamrocks are heading to John Glenn, while the Jets will meet Meadowbrook on its new turf at Capers Stadium.
Shadyside is embarking on a trip to Strasburg, which is a return trip from last year's season opener. Let's hope the local Tigers don't have bus issues like the Tuscarawas Countians did en route to Belmont County last season.
It's really tough to get a handle on some of those games. It's just a shame that there aren't more head-to-head matchups.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
There are always some kids you know about coming into the season, but every season always yields a host of new players who burst onto the scene into bigger roles or evolve after biding their time behind older players.
Some of those to keep an eye on this season include: Marcus Sutton (Martins Ferry), Austin Dorris (Shadyside), Kyle Yaquinta (Barnesville), Drew Tubaugh (Beallsville), Brett Rosen (River), Q.J. Williams (Bridgeport), Hunter Westlake (Bellaire), Jeremy Spoonmore (Harrison Central), Korey Lafferre (Monroe Central), Jibri Blount (Linsly) and Brian Zeroski (Buckeye Local).
NOT SO SMOOTH START
The season hasn't even officially begun yet and first-year head coach Todd Filtz is already dealing with issues at Canton McKinley.
Canton McKinley's Week 3 opponent was supposed to be New Bern from North Carolina visiting Fawcett Stadium. However, due to a scheduling conflict, New Bern won't be making the trip to the Buckeye State and the Bulldogs are left with a bye week in Week 3.
While taking a bye week doesn't affect your OHSAA Computer ranking adversely, it's tough to get a program re-energized when you don't play the full complement of games you're promised.
A piece in the Canton Repository this past week also indicated that losing the game will certainly be felt by the McKinley athletic department.
Make The Times Leader your home for all things prep football this season. It all gets under way Tuesday when the Pigskin Preview hits the newsstands. If you're in the neighborhood of Martins Ferry that day, stop by the T-L Office to take part in the annual Tailgate Party from 11:30 a.m. until 2 p.m. For $3, which goes to the paper's Newspapers in Education Fund, you'll receive a hot dog, bag of chips and a pop as well as copy of the Pigskin Preview.
Also on Tuesday, the annual Pick Parade returns where the readers will have a chance to win cash prizes for selecting the most correct winners.
In Week two, the Xs and Os Games of the Week will be spotlighted. Each week, three or four area games will be previewed with stories and photos.
Obviously, Sports Saturday will have your recap of all area games from that Friday night.
This column will shift to Mondays and will recap the week that was, look ahead to the games ahead and discuss other issues surrounding prep football.
Lastly, we're always seeking feature story ideas. If you know of a player - in any sport - who's overcome obstacles or is doing something exciting in the community or classroom, please feel free to let us know via email or on our Twitter or Facebook postings.
MOUNT UNION was dealt a tough setback during the pre-season. The Purple Raiders learned they'll be without former Martins Ferry tailback Jeremy Murray, who was the team's leading rusher last season because of an academic issue. Both the Canton Repository and D3football.com reported Murray was academically ineligible for this season.
Staskey can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @TLSportsSeth