08-27 football previews

Cooper Bulldog Markel Smith carries the ball for a gain in the team's scrimmage last week.

After a trying offseason that included delayed practices, stringent health and safety guidelines and more, the day is finally here — it’s time for football in the Red River Valley.

“I’m just so grateful we have the opportunity to play,” Paris Wildcats head football coach Steven Hohenberger said.

The Wildcats, who will be playing the Oklahoma-based Metro Christian Academy, were originally slated to play Arkansas High out of Texarkana. At the last minute, Arkansas High pulled out of the preseason game, leaving Paris scrambling to find a new opponent to play.

“We know that’ll be a tough game,” Hohenberger said. “They’re explosive on offense and are the defending state champs, so this isn’t going to be an easy week 1 game by any means. It all comes down to every man on the field doing his job and following his assignment. It’s all about discipline.”

The North Lamar Panthers will open the season on the road, as they battle Krum for the first game of the season.

“Krum is a hungry team, and are looking to prove something, just like we are,” Panthers head coach Cooper Crowell said.

To streamline the offense for the opening game, Crowell said the team had limited its playbook.

“We’re still going to give the QB plenty of options, but this is something we’re doing for this first game to keep things focused and streamlined,” he said.

Chisum opens the season at home, taking on Union Grove.

“I’m excited,” Mustangs head coach Darren Pevey said. “I wasn’t even sure we’d get to this point, so I’m just ready to get out there and represent our student body and community on the field.”

And in Pattonville, Prairiland opens the season against Alba-Golden.

“They’re going to be physical, and we know we’re going to need to stop the running game with them,” Patriots head coach Heath Blalock said.

Pevey said this opening week feels different than in years past, as teams have been given far less time to prepare given the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

“We only had one scrimmage beforehand, so that’s different,” he said. “And we had to condense practice by a lot.”

While there’s been talks about whether the season will inevitably be cut short by the pandemic, all the coaches were in agreement that they strive to keep their players focused on the present and not pay those discussions any mind.

“For us it’s just external noise,” Hohenberger said. “It’s not fair to our players or our coaching staff who have worked so hard to get to this point.”

Also in the Red River Valley, Rivercrest opens at home against DeKalb, Cooper takes the field versus Grand Saline, Honey Grove is at home against Teneha, Detroit will play Trenton, Clarksville takes on Whitewright and Hugo will battle Dickson in week 1 games.

Tommy Culkin is a staff writer for The Paris News. He can be reached at 903-785-6972 or at tommy.culkin@theparisnews.com.

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