The calendar has flipped from August to September and with that we turn our focus toward Week 1 of the football season. We'll finally get a chance to see live action, and we're just as excited as you are to get started. So here are five must-see games across the YAIAA Friday night:
South Western at Gettysburg
This cross-division battle has been even with Gettysburg winning the first six matchups in the series before the Mustangs won six in a row. Then the Warriors snapped that streak last season in a thrilling shootout at The Corral that included 62 combined first-half points, five touchdowns of more than 30 yards and a dramatic finish when the Gettysburg defense forced a South Western turnover on downs at midfield with less than a minute remaining.
The Mustangs return nearly everyone from a 5-5 team that got hot at the end of the season, while the Warriors are replacing 19 seniors and starters at every skill position. But this one still has the potential to be a thriller. Keep an eye on this one as a way to gauge which direction these teams are heading.
PREDICTION >> South Western 41, Gettysburg 24
Central York at West York
This border rivalry has seen the two programs alternate wins and losses the last five seasons. West York avenged a 2013 blowout loss with a lopsided win last season. But gone are head coach Ron Miller and do-it-all quarterback Ross Campbell, so don't expect the Bulldogs to light up the scoreboard as easily as they did last season.
The Bulldog faithful always brings a strong crowd, especially when the Panthers are in town, so expect the atmosphere to be rocking. Can the first-year head coach and first-year quarterback duo of Jeremy Jones and Tyler Folk open the 2015 campaign with a win?
The Panthers shore up the defense. Central let the Bulldogs' offense run for 323 yards and pass for another 134 last season. The Panthers can't afford a repeat of that performance if they hope to win the latest chapter of this rivalry.
PREDICTION >> Central York 31, West York 23
Northeastern at York Catholic
The cross-division foes meet again after their last three season-openers have been decided by 13 points combined. This chapter should be close as well. The Bobcats return their top three rushers and picked up a talented playmaker in Shannon Valenti, who transferred from Central.
But the Irish, who fell just short in the district championship game last season, have a stout defense which they'll rely on while they ease a new signal-caller into Hakeem Kinard's vacant spot.
PREDICTION >> York Catholic 20, Northeastern 10
Trinity at Delone Catholic
The Squires have lost four of the last five matchups in the series, including a tough 37-30 defeat last season.
But there's a breath of fresh air in McSherrystown with Corey Zortman taking over the coaching duties and Brian Shermeyer assuming the quarterback duties. The Squires are young (just eight seniors), fast and exciting. An early win would be a great way to usher in a new era of Delone football.
Fun fact: The Shamrocks were winless on the road last season and this game is at Delone.
PREDICTION >> Delone 27, Trinity 17
York Suburban at Red Land
The Patriots' fan base will turn its attention from Little League baseball to the gridiron where they'll see Red Land open with York Suburban. The Patriots won this matchup, 25-0, in 2014 but Phil Overton, who played a key role in that victory has graduated, leaving the Patriots searching for a playmaker.
The Trojans have their playmaker. In fact, they have more than one with Thomas Merkle and Collin Mailman returning as one of the top quarterback-receiver duos in the league. If those two start connecting early, don't expect the Trojans to be shut out again.
PREDICTION >> York Suburban 24, Red Land 21
Bonus pick: New Oxford at Bermudian Springs
Let me explain. Yes, the Eagles have only lost one regular-season game in the last four seasons combined. Yes, New Oxford hasn't won a game since October 2013. But these teams could be heading in slightly different directions early in the year with New Oxford hungry to put a tumultuous season and offseason behind them, and Bermudian replacing 20 starters. The Eagles are still a solid program, but it would take any team time to adjust after losing that much talent. The Colonials have looked better than advertised in their scrimmages and would love nothing more than to spoil Bermudian's unveiling of their new turf field.
Don't sleep on this matchup, with its 7:30 p.m. start. New Oxford will give Bermudian more of a challenge than expected.
PREDICTION >> Bermudian Springs 18, New Oxford 12