Friday night marks Week 1 of the 2003 high school football season.
While winning early is important to all teams, several schools in our area are faced with a must-win situation against a conference rival.
In the Northern Division of the SEMO Conference, Sikeston plays host to Jackson. In the SEMO Central, Charleston travels to Kennett.
In the SEMO South, Hayti hits the road to play East Prairie, while Malden plays host to Scott City.
Here's how I see the first week unfolding:
Sikeston looked sharp in last week's jamboree at NMCC, while Jackson struggled at their hosted scrimmage.
This looks like a win for the Bulldogs. Sikeston has several promising players on offense, like new QB Stephen Miller, RB Jacob Priday and WR Scotty Keenan. The Indians on the other hand are still searching for answers, both on the O-line and at quarterback.
Still, Jackson is Jackson.
As long as Carl Gross is running the show up there, the Indians can't be taken lightly.
A win over Sikeston would spark Jackson's season, but I don't think that will happen.
Final score: Sikeston 28, Jackson 7
When Charleston had Orrice Stanback and Kennett had Tyree Goolsby, this was a tough game to pick.
Both studs are gone now, but this matchup is still a tough call.
I like the experience Charleston returns and the potential of newcomers Trentez Lane, Bobby Clark and Ashton Farmer.
Final score: Charleston 22, Kennett 12
Several of NMCC's eight losses last year could've gone either way. But Jonesboro wasn't one of them.
The Golden Hurricanes were the superior team, racking up 478 yards with the mid-line option.
Most of that team is back this year, including standout tailback Cowan Hutson and quarterback Jim Harris.
Considering the opponent and the tiresome bus ride, it could be a long night for the Eagles.
Final score: Jonesboro 35, NMCC 20
Dexter had Poplar Bluff on the ropes last year, forcing the Mules to pull off a miracle in the final seconds of regulation. Poplar Bluff should be a better team this season.
I'm not so sure about Dexter.
Final score: Poplar Bluff 21, Dexter 10
Last year Hayti beat East Prairie 52-0. The Eagles should put up a better fight this time around, but it will still be a blowout.
This could be the toughest opponent EP faces all year.
Final score: Hayti 32, East Prairie 6
Cape Central is considered the best team in Southeast Missouri, but are they good enough to beat your average St. Louis squad?
It took two fourth-quarter touchdowns for Cape to beat St. Charles West last year.
And this year, the game is played up there. I like Cape's chances, but expect another struggle.
Finals score: Cape Central 31, St. Charles West 23
This one could go either way. Malden seems better on both the offensive and defensive lines, while Scott City seems to have an edge at the skill positions. When in doubt, go with the home team.
Final score: Malden 28, Scott City 21
I'm sure Caruthersville wasn't sad to see Lone Oak, Ky., replace Anna-Jonesboro, Ill., in Week 1.
This looks like a team the Tigers can beat. Lone Oak lost its first game of the season to Kentucky rival Murray, 35-7. Of course, all bets are off when you're playing out of state.
Final score: Caruthersville 24, Lone Oak 21
The Red Devils are short on experience, while Grandview returns a good nucleus from last year's 3-7 team.
Final score: Grandview 35, Chaffee 13