In truly a Week 1 matchup to see, Sikeston will host the Gateway Tech Jaguars on Friday to open the 2011 high school football season.
"We feel like we needed to get somebody in that first slot to tell us where we are, so to speak," Sikeston head coach Kent Gibbs said. "We mentioned to the kids that this is a big ball game. We want to win. The thing of it is, it's just one ball game. If you win, it tells you what you can become. If you lose, it tells you where you've got to go."
The Jaguars, who return six starters on offense as well as six on defense, were 7-5 last season and 4-1 in the Public High League. They were mildly upset by Roosevelt High School in sectional play, which ended their season a bit prematurely in their minds.
With something to prove this season, returning quarterback Paul Rice will have his say in just how far Gateway goes this season.
"They think they have a legitimate chance of getting to The Dome and whether or not they do or not, I don't know," Gibbs said. "That's what their goal is and it should be a good ball game."
With Rice, who stands at 5-foot-10, 180-pounds, leading the way, Gateway finished second at the St. Louis Metro Football Coaches Association 7-on-7 tournament on June 26 at DeSmet - a tourney filled with Class 5 and Class 6 teams.
Rice has become one of the most talked about quarterbacks in the St. Louis area. With speed on top of speed to burn, the lightning quick signal caller is just as deadly through the air as he is on the ground as he slips through defenses with the slightest of ease - highlight videos on YouTube.com will quickly solidify his athleticism.
When asked to describe Rice, Gibbs thought of a close, personal comparison.
"He's like our Trey Lewis from last year," he said. "He's not a big kid but he's really, really quick. We've watched him on tape and he's all over YouTube, he can stand flat footed and throw the thing almost 50 yards.
"It's something where, we could be susceptible to giving up a big play if we're not careful."
Rice, who also is a talented DB, led the Jaguars rushing attack from behind center with 882 yards and 12 TDs. He threw for an extra 1,165 with 14 TDs and seven INTs.
"We have to be able to contain him and just not let him run wild on us," said Gibbs. "Hopefully, we can get a little pressure on him from the outside and make him bring everything up the middle where we've got some help."
Rice has one of the biggest targets to throw to as well. WR Kalen Perry (sr., 6-2, 220) caught 30 of Rice's passes for 558 yards and nine TDs. On top of watching Rice's every move, Petty is also a threat Gibbs said they need to keep a close eye on.
"He's a big kid," he said about Petty. "They like to throw a lot of verticals to him. (Rice) does a really good job of throwing it deep and a really good job of scrambling."
RB Michael Ball (jr., 6-0, 190) rushed for 682 yards and nine touchdowns from the backfield. They also feature WR/DB Andre Sims (sr., 5-9, 180), OL/DL Dajuan Johnson (sr., 5-9, 270), OL/DL Dominique Henderson (sr., 6-3, 280), OL/DL Bryant Williams (jr., 5-11, 250), RB/LB Kenneth West (sr., 5-7, 180) and WR/DL Terrance Davidson (sr., 6-1, 190).
"They're big up front," said Gibbs. "We really have to get after them and keep our pressure on them."
Gateway Tech averaged 32.4 points per game last season, which was enough for the second-highest tally in the Public High League.
They also come into Friday's game with new head coach Jason Dulick calling the plays for the Jaguars for the very first time.
Dulick is a graduate of St. Louis University High and played wide receiver at Illinois in the 1990s. He has been an assistant at Gateway for the past eight years.
"They're going to do a lot of blitzing and we had a lot of problems with that at our jamboree," said Gibbs. "We've worked really hard on our intensity level. We've worked really hard this week on some of the fundamentals."
Sikeston, who remains without a selection of starting quarterback as of Wednesday, defeated Obion County Central 42-34 in last year's opener.
"We're certainly going into it with the idea we're going to win," Gibbs said. "We just have to work to get there."