Excitement in the air as football returns

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High school football is back, and at long last the weeks and months of preparation and prognostication give way to actual games.

There are plenty of changes on the area scene to take note of as the 2013 season kicks off Friday night. Four new coaches will make their debuts this weekend as new eras begin for Elgin, South Elgin, Streamwood and St. Charles North.

Huntley gets a chance to show off its fancy new FieldTurf playing surface Friday when it hosts Bartlett in an intriguing nonconference clash.

For Westminster Christian, the theme of newness goes to another level as it plays its first-ever varsity game Saturday at Luther North.

Yet in the midst of all the changes, there is a certain level of reassurance that can be found in football traditions that remain the same. The sound of the marching band and the excitement that comes with the opening kickoff and the first touchdown are no different now than they were 30 years ago.

Something that never gets old is a good, old-fashioned rivalry, and local fans can witness one Friday when Hampshire travels to play neighbor Burlington Central.

The Rockets and Whip-Purs typically play with a hard-nosed style that reflects their old-school coaches. Last year Burlington Central managed to grind out a 16-7 win for its third straight victory in the series.

“It’s a rivalry game, but it’s also important because everybody wants to get off on the right foot in that opening game,” Hampshire coach Dan Cavanaugh said. “We’ve been pointing at this for quite a while. Burlington is always tough, so it will be a good test for us.”

Any football player will tell you pregame nerves run high leading up to the first game of the season. It wasn’t long ago Kyle Rohde and Pat Pistorio were in those shoes as players waiting in the locker room with anticpation prior to a season opener, but this weekend they’ll be the ones giving motivational speeches in the moments leading up to their first games as head coaches.

Rohde is a 2002 Elgin graduate who takes over at his alma mater. He looks forward to seeing months of preparation go into motion when he leads his Maroons into action Friday at Dundee-Crown.

“I’m excited for that first shot at being a head coach,” Rohde said. “I have all these plans and ways I want to do things, and we’ll see if I know what I’m talking about.”

Pistorio is a 1998 Larkin gradaute now in his first year as the coach at South Elgin.His Storm hosts St. Charles East on Saturday in a matchup that looks like a toss up on paper.

For Pistorio, taking on the Saints brings back memories of his playing days when Larkin and St. Charles would meet with Upstate Eight supremacy on the line. Saturday’s game is technically just a nonconference meeting, but both teams can give their playoff hopes a significant boost with a Week 1 win.

“It’s very important to make sure we establish what we can do early on,” Pistorio said. “It’s an important game for our coaching staff and our kids.”

Opening week ultimately amounts to only one-ninth of the football regular season, but nothing can match the sheer anticpation leading up to the first slate of games. Whether you are a player, coach or fan, enjoy the rush as the first chapter in the 2013 season is written.

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