One month and one day. Exactly 32 days. The excitement has been building for months and before we know it, it will be Aug. 29 - the first night of the high school football season.
This is the best time of the year. Fans are excited for football and everyone is 0-0, already hoping for the chance to make it through the fastest 10 weeks of the year for a Week 11 matchup - and for some, a trip to the state championship games in Canton or Massillon.
But before teams can focus on games in November, they have to address the first 10 games of their schedule. A full, complete schedule of the high school football season can be found on page 7D of today's paper. There are a few games on the docket this year, however, that make this sports editor excited for the most wonderful time of the year.
WEEK 1, NILES AT GIRARD: This game is on Thursday, Aug. 29, and there might not be a better way to kick off the 2013 season. Niles was one of the surprise teams in the 2012 campaign but graduated some key players from that team. Girard on the other hand had a uncharacteristic 1-9 season but now return most of their starters from last year. This game might be closer than some think and will be a great way to get the season started.
WEEK 2, HOWLAND AT WARREN G. HARDING: Warren G. Harding dominated last year's game, shutting out the Tigers, 34-0. Many area fans will be anxious to see how the Tigers look this year after the graduation of Michigan recruit De'Veon Smith and with new coach Dominic Menendez at the helm. Raider fans will be looking to see if Harding can continue the strides the team made in the 2012 season. Besides the questions to be answered, these are two of the best programs in the county. So no matter what year the game is played, it will be one of the best games of the year.
WEEK 7, NILES AT HUBBARD: The Eagles are going to be one of the stronger teams in the area this season - led by standout running back L.J. Scott and the dangerous receiver Darnell Tate. One team that will be gunning for them will be Niles, which lost to Hubbard twice last season. Also, by the time the two teams meet on Oct. 11, this game will have major playoff implications. This battle will definitely be the game of the week in Week 7.
These aren't the only "Games of the Week." There's the Holy War in Week 9 between Ursuline and Cardinal Mooney, the Battle of Belmont between Liberty and Girard in Week 7 and McDonald vs. Western Reserve in the Battle of the Blue Devils in Week 5. And those are just the games that have been classically good rivalries over the years.
Who will be the surprise team this season? Who will continue the Mahoning Valley's streak of at least one team going undefeated in the regular season since 1999? What game will be the one no one thinks could mean anything in August but means everything in October?
Answers to those questions start to unfold in 32 days.