King football returns Friday night as eight games are scheduled across the eastern portion of the Buckeye State.
A pair of first-year head coaches - Barnesville's Matt Johnson and Buckeye Local's Phil Pest - will make their debuts on the sidelines.
Johnson and his Shamrocks will travel to McConagha Stadium on the campus of Muskingum University in New Concord to battle John Glenn, while Pest and his Panthers make the 2-hour journey to Utica.
"I'm very excited," Johnson said. I am excited to be in the position that I am, and the kids are excited, as well."
The Shamrocks return no starters in the skilled positions as sophomore Isaac McGee is expected to take the snaps against the Little Muskies. Senior Kyle Iaquinta will get the majority of the carries.
As for Pest, who has been a long-time assistant at the Connorville-based school and filled in last season when Anthony Barsch experienced some health issues, he finds himself in the same boat as Johnson.
The Panthers lost the entire starting backfield to graduation.
"I've been an assistant for 30 years under some very good head coaches my entire career," Pest noted. "It's not really that different."
In other games Friday, Martins Ferry heads west on I-70 to Heath; while Monroe Central treks to Atwater to face Waterloo; Shadyside travels up U.S. 250 to face homestanding Strasburg; Union Local visits Byesville to meet Meadowbrook on the new turf; and River plays host to Fort Frye at Magnolia High School in New Martinsville.
The lone team not having to gas up the buses is Harrison Central. The Huskies will board in Cadiz and depart at Wheeling Island Stadium where they will meet Wheeling Central.
Martins Ferry at Heath, 7:30 p.m.
Purple Riders' head coach Dave Bruney will begin his 34th season on the sidelines Friday.
Martins Ferry, like Barnesville and Buckeye Local, has to replace some talented skilled position players.
Heath, which is also in Division IV, Region 15, was 3-7 last year, but returns eight starters on both sides of the football.
Shadyside at Strasburg, 7:30 p.m.
In a battle of Orange-and-Black Tigers, Shadyside and Strasburg - a pair of Division VI, Region 21 foes - will square off in Tuscarawas County.
Head coach Mark Holenka's Tigers have been battle-tested over the past few seasons, and Friday should be no different.
Shadyside will employ a balanced offensive attack as senior Chase Kinemond returns at quarterback after missing part of last season with a knee injury.
Monroe Central at Atwater Waterloo, 7 p.m.
The Seminoles and Vikings will be meeting on the gridiron for the first time, as the Monroe Countians will be the couple hour journey to Portage County.
Head coach Jay Circosta had to replace a 4-year quarterback in Tyler Kinchen, but veteran Korey Lafferre will move from wideout to quarterback.
However, the Seminoles suffered a big blow in the preseason when senior tailback Curtis Nixon, who was expected to get the majority of the carries, blew out his knee and will miss the season. He will be replaced by sophomore Levi Brown.
Union Local at Meadowbrook, 7 p.m.
The Jets and Colts will meet for the final time in their rivalry, but it will be the first contest on the new turf in Byesville.
Union Local will be seeking to snap a 19-game losing streak. The last time the Jets won was in Byesville two seasons ago.
Last year in Morristown, the Colts scored a touchdown on the last play of the game to prevail.
Harrison Central at Wheeling Central, 7 p.m.
The Huskies and Maroon Knights will renew acquaintances for the first time in quite some time on the Wheeling Island turf.
Justin Kropka's Harrison Central outfit has some power returning on offense as All-Ohio tailback Maurtice Hython is back for his senior season.
Also returning is quarterback Rashaen Mitchell, who missed some of last season with a broken arm suffered in the final preseason scrimmage. Another top returner is Nick Pelegreen.
The Maroon Knights must overcome the loss of talented quarterback Parker Henry, who suffered a serious knee injury recently.
Fort Frye vs. River at New Martinsville, 7 p.m.
The Pilots are forced to play the home portion of their schedule at Magnolia High School in New Martinsville due construction of the new school building.
Mike Flannery's squad has big expectations as five 3-year lettermen return for Flannery's 10th season in Hannibal.
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