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Coaching debuts highlight Week 1 of high school football

Backyard rivalries, a cross-country matchup and coaching debuts highlight the start of the 2022 high school football season, which kicks off tonight with a slate of eight games involving area schools.

Highlighting tonight’s schedule is the 48th consecutive meeting between Niles and Howland. The two schools have met every year since 1975, with the Red Dragons leading the series 25-22.

Howland has won each of the last two matchups by six points. In 2020, the Red Dragons and Tigers played in the final week of the season, with Howland prevailing 42-36. Last year, a pair of Ashleigh Macias field goals provided the only scoring in a 6-0 victory.

The area’s longest regular-season winning streak will be on the line tonight in the 51st meeting between Springfield and South Range. The Raiders lead the series 29-19-2..

A year ago when Springfield and South Range met in the season opener, Springfield held the area’s longest current regular-season winning streak at 21 games. South Range ended the streak with a 41-21 win.

This time, it’s the Raiders who head into the game with the area’s longest current regular-season winning streak. South Range last lost a regular season game on Oct. 4, 2019, a 35-34 overtime setback at Niles. The Raiders since have reeled off 20 straight victories.

Ursuline and Brookfield meet for the sixth time, but it’s been 79 years since the two schools last squared off. In 1943 the Irish defeated the Warriors 26-6. Ursuline and Brookfield first met in 1932 with Brookfield running away with a 25-0 win in a game played at Idora Park.

Seth Antram will make his Youngstown Chaney coaching debut tonight when the Cowboys visit Poland.

In all, eight area schools will welcome new coaches this year, but just one of those schools will be guided by a first-year head coach. Tim Cooper will be making his head coaching debut Friday when his West Branch Warriors host Canfield.

This past winter Cooper replaced Ken Harris, who stepped down after three seasons. Harris is now on the staff as an assistant.

The Warriors-Cardinals matchup will feature two of the state’s top quarterbacks. West Branch’s offense is guided by senior Dru DeShields, who last year threw for 3,361 yards and 40 touchdowns while rushing for 1,126 yards and 15 touchdowns.

Canfield is led by Indiana University-bound senior Broc Lowry. As a junior Lowry threw for 1,921 yards and 17 touchdowns. He added 871 yards and 13 TDs on the ground.

While a good majority of weekend games feature all-area matchups, Austintown Fitch went to great lengths to find its opening week foe. The Falcons’ opponent — the Foothill Falcons — will travel 2,143 miles from Henderson, Nevada, to the Mahoning Valley to take on Fitch.

Foothill went 5-3 last year, losing twice to Nevanda’s top-ranked team, Bishop Gorman. The school has an enrollment of 1,505 students, equivalent to a Division I school in Ohio. Last year’s squad included 36 seniors.

Foothill heads into the season as the 12th ranked team in Nevada according to MaxPreps.

Mineral Ridge hits the road to play at Pymatuning Valley, but the lights will still be shining on E.Z. Whittaker Field, which will play host to Boardman and Youngstown Cardinal Mooney. For a second straight year, Mooney is using Mineral Ridge’s facility for its home games.

Warren John F. Kennedy has advanced to the playoffs seven straight years, the longest current playoff run among all area schools. The Eagles’ quest for an eighth straight playoff appearance — and third straight regional title — begins Friday at Champion.

The opening week concludes with just one Saturday game involving an area team, as Mathews travels to Steubenville to take on Catholic Central. A year ago, the Mustangs defeated the Crusaders 6-0.

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