CHARLESTON - When Charleston and Kennett met in last year's season-opener, there was arguably as much talent on the field as any two teams in Southeast Missouri.
But after all the smoke cleared from 2002 graduation, Charleston and Kennett were each left with just one ace in the hole.
When the two meet at 7:30 Friday night at Charleston's Marshall Stadium, it will be no secret who the main ball carriers will be.
Charleston returns Orrice Stanback, who gained 1,040 yards as the team's fullback.
Kennett returns senior Tyree Goolsby, the track and field state 400 meter champion, that has rushed for 2,115 yards the last two years.
After a breakout sophomore year when he averaged nearly 10 yards per carry and scored 19 TDs, Goolsby backslid last year, gaining just 6.6 yards per carry with 12 TDs. And he only managed 911 yards on the ground.
But much of that can be attributed to the Indians moving to a passing attack. Plus he was certainly more of a target once the word was out. Charleston head coach Brent Anderson still has some concerns with the speedster.
"Goolsby can fly -- I mean the kid's got great moves and he's probably the top threat in Southeast Missouri as far as running backs go," said Anderson. "He scares you. Goolsby is a cut above the rest because anytime he touches the football he can take it the distance."
But Charleston's Stanback isn't a pushover. While he may not possess the speed of Goolsby, he is still faster than most, and he's also got the power to run between the tackles.
"He's going to have to become familiar with that pigskin, that's for sure," said Anderson of Stanback. "He's going to have to carry it quite a bit. We've got five kids up front that I know can do a good job. As valuable as Orrice is to us, those five up front are more valuable. They're going to determine how well he does."
While much of the focus will be on the running back matchup, both teams have major questions at the quarterback position. Kennett head coach Roland Johnson said three sophomores are battling for the position vacated by perhaps the best throwing quarterback in the region last year in Nathan Baker.
Ben Foster, Lando Edwards and Jake McKuim are all vying for the spot. According to Johnson, a fourth sophomore, Dontavis Jones, who has been ill, was the favorite to win the position.
"It's real close to the first game, but we've kind of got a hunch who's going to take it over," said Johnson. "We just want to make sure we find the guy to do it the way we want to do it. Baker played for us for three years and it's tough to lose a player like that. It's tough for somebody new to step in and take over that starting role."
Charleston has a senior and a junior battling for the position vacated by perhaps the best running quarterback in the region last year in Dontay Clark.
Anderson said he may go with a platoon system with senior Andrew DeField and junior A.H. Marshall until a starter emerges.
"We've got two good kids -- I'm comfortable with either one," said Anderson. "They've just battled all summer. They've made each other better. There's no clear-cut starter as of yet. Neither one has out-shone the other. I just see it as a plus and not a minus."
The Bluejays won last year's matchup 35-32 after holding off a late Indian rally. But Kennett won the last game on Charleston's field two years ago, so Anderson is expecting another tough game, which annually serves as the SEMO Central opener for both teams.
"It's not a huge game because it's a conference game, it's a huge game in the fact that it's our opener at home and it's against a good football team," said Anderson.