It's opening night for high school football

CORNELIUS – They’ve lifted weights all summer. Ran wind sprints. Practiced. Studied film. Practiced some more. Listened to coaches lecture and occasionally bark.

There were no marching bands, cheerleaders or fans.

Now, it’s time for the real thing.

High school football’s opening night is Aug. 23 and all 14 Lake Norman-area teams will debut their latest edition. Shiny helmets and clean jerseys will beam under stadium lights.

Optimism, as always, is running high in many places. That’s fine, until someone officially fumbles or jumps offside. But there could be a surprise team or player ready to emerge in grander fashion than anyone imagined. Every team is aiming for conference titles and the ultimate prize, a state championship.

Hough High coach Bobby Collins has set the bar high for his Huskies, who open the season with a 7 p.m. game at Providence High.

“When you go from two wins (in 2010) to four wins (2011) to nine wins (2012), we expect nothing less than a 10-win season,” Collins said. “My thought is always progression. I think we have the components on this team to win a state championship. The only people that can get in our way is Hough. As long as we don’t do the things to shoot ourselves in the foot, I think we’ll be fine and have the opportunity to compete on the state level.”

Davidson Day is the gold standard for start-up programs. In the Patriots’ first two varsity seasons, they’ve won private-school state championships. Crown No. 3 is a definite possibility with quarterback Will Grier, who returns for his senior season after leading the nation in passing yards (5,785) and touchdown passes (69) last fall.

Davidson Day will open on the road against Albemarle High, a perennial Class 1A power.

There’s plenty of newness in the area. Community School of Davidson is beginning its first varsity season after playing a mixed schedule last fall. All 22 starters return.

“A fast start it is imperative for us,” coach T.J. Albert said. “Last year, we only won one game so its important to get off to a good start so the kids can learn how to compete and win. We have a challenging schedule so I'm hoping we can be competitive early on and prepare us for when we begin conference play.”

The Spartans are looking for big seasons from tackle Holden Bailey (6-foot-4, 275 pounds), who is being recruited by Southern Conference colleges. He’ll open holes for quarterback Garrett Hart and running backs Joey Bernardini and Monquez Moore. Nick Piselli, a sophomore linebacker, is expected to anchor the defense.

Coach Matt Jenkins takes over at Hopewell High, which has had two straight losing seasons. He’s been coaching 21 years, so not much is new to him.

“We definitely need to improve defensively,” Jenkins said. “So far I am very excited about what I see. I believe we will be very solid defensively. Offensively, we have some playmakers who can be very dangerous in space. It will be our job as coaches to get the ball to our playmakers in a position to allow them to use that speed to be successful.”