Football season kicks off tonight

It’s the night many athletes and fans have been longing for since the state champions were crowned at Camp Randall last November.
There’s nothing in the world like the opening night of the high school football season. The sounds of the coaches yelling, the pads popping as the players charge into each other, the anticipation of the game-breaking plays all make it a revitalizing night for players and fans.
There is plenty of excitement within all the area conferences as teams want to prove they are contenders, not pretenders.
In the Middle Border Conference, defending champion Somerset returns well stocked after reaching the Division 4 state championship game last fall. That doesn’t guarantee the Spartans anything. Durand and Ellsworth both return their best teams in years and teams like Prescott and New Richmond also have personnel that could lift them up to contender status.
St. Croix Central ran the table in the Dunn-St. Croix Conference last season, but the Panthers don’t get any guarantees this year either. Elk Mound and Boyceville lead a cast of D-SC teams that could supplant the Panthers at the top of the conference.
The Big Rivers Conference is in the same situation. Eau Claire Memorial rose from the ashes to play evenly with stalwart Menomonie last season.
This season is shortened by one game, so many conferences only have one round of non-conference action before they jump right into their league schedule. Here are some of the best matchups of this Friday’s games.

Somerset at Bloomer: This is a rematch of the Division 4 sectional championship game from last fall. Somerset brings back a veteran cast, while Bloomer lost 22 starters from last season’s team. Bloomer’s JV team was undefeated last year, so you can expect the Blackhawks to retool their team quickly.

St. Croix Falls at Osceola: The Highway 35 rivalry is always a dandy. These are two young teams that both desperately need to get off to a good start before wading into their conference schedules.

New Richmond at River Falls: Speaking of teams that need good starts, these both qualify. The Wildcats have done well in non-conference games the past few seasons, but struggle in the Big Rivers Conference. If New Richmond wants to run with the MBC contenders, a win Friday would be a good indication that the Tigers are up to the challenge.

Baldwin-Woodville at St. Croix Central: With three miles separating the schools, you can bank on this rivalry always producing a heated battle. After Central’s 11-0 start to last season, you can bet the Blackhawks would love to deliver an early setback to the Panthers this season.

Durand at Mondovi: One of the most heated rivalries in western Wisconsin is the annual clash between Durand and Mondovi. Durand brings back one of its best teams in years and Mondovi is trying to rise to the top of the D-SC. This is a game where you can never predict the outcome, because the rivalry produces so many unexpected results.