As a child growing up in the South, you learn early in life that some things hold a greater significance than others. Football is one of those things. College and professional football is important but it’s the high school game that gets the adrenaline flowing.
It’s on Friday night when a kid is first introduced to the game -- the fresh cut grass, the smell of hot dogs grilling, the sounds of the marching band filling the stadium and the sight of young men putting it all on the line not just for their team, their coach or even their school, but for their community.
The same Friday nights when a young kid can be swept up into the game and dreams about playing under the lights. It’s called Friday Night Fever.
Players, coaches and fans alike have been anticipating this year’s kickoff since the final whistle blew last fall. The anticipation is finally over and the season is here. Everyone is undefeated and every team has aspirations of reaching the state championships.
There are dozens of big games across North Carolina this week. Some pit arch rivals facing off with bragging rights on the line while others will feature top-ranked teams clashing in what will have a championship feel in the heat of August.
Here is a breakdown of the Top 10 games of the week from
Butler vs. Mallard Creek
For the second year in a row, these title contenders will open up the season in a week 1 matchup of epic proportions. As if the game wasn't big enough, it has been moved to the ultimate stage in North Carolina as they’ll play under the lights of Memorial Stadium in Uptown Charlotte.
That grand venue can seat more than 20,000, and while it may not be filled to the brim, the atmosphere should be electric to see which one of these Charlotte rivals can establish itself as the top team in the state.
The Mavericks have been knocking on the door of a state finals appearance and they hope to kick off the 2012 season with a victory over top-ranked Butler. Standing in their way will be a host of college-bound Bulldogs led by quarterback Riley Ferguson (Tennessee), and Uriah LeMay (Georgia).
Hillside at New Bern
Two state championship contenders in the 4A classification will battle at Caruso-Coates in New Bern. Despite the considerable distance between the schools, New Bern and Hillside have developed a strong rivalry in a short time. These top programs met in the 2010 semifinals and again to open the season last year.
They split those games and neither team really has an advantage over the other. Hillside has nearly a dozen college-bound players including Khris Francis, who is headed to UNC.
Southern Durham at Dudley
It will be a special night in Greensboro as Dudley High School opens a brand new Tarpley Memorial Stadium. There is sure to be a lot of pageantry and celebration but the game itself is sure to equal the party.
Dudley looks to be back as a championship contender but will have a tough task against the always powerful Southern Spartans. It won’t get any easier however for Dudley, who is in the first of a four-game gauntlet to start the season. Next week they face Ragsdale then Northern Guilford and Hillside.
Davie County at Page
The defending 4AA state champions will have their work cut out for them as they set out to defend their crown against the Davie County War Eagles. Gone is star quarterback James Summers, but expect Jordan Putnam to step in and carry the load for the Pirates.
Davie is very physical and has exceptional size up front but youth at quarterback could play a part in this game.
Mooresville at West Rowan
Last year, the Mooresville Blue Devils put an end to the nation’s longest winning streak at 46 when they defeated West Rowan 21-14. West still rebounded to make it to the 3A state championships but expect the Falcons to remember that game and attempt to turn the tables.
Mooresville is still one of the top teams in the I-Meck conference but West Rowan’s dominant defense could make scoring points a tough task in Mt. Ulla.
Richmond County at Sun Valley
When you talk about excellence in North Carolina high school football, you have to mention the Richmond Raiders. They look to be one of the most powerful teams in the 4A and are expected to make a run at yet another state championship.
Standing in their way will be a tough Sun Valley team that is very quick and has enough size up front to counter Richmond’s advantage in the trenches.
Albemarle at West Stokes
A year ago, West embarrassed Albemarle en route to a 16-0 season and their first state championship. Expect the Bulldogs to remember that loss and be out to return that favor.
Albemarle will be looking for UNC-bound R.J. Prince to set the tone up front for the Bulldogs and help elevate them to victory.
T.W. Andrews at High Point Central
This is one of the top rivalry games in the state, the battle of High Point. It will be played at a packed Simeon Stadium, where the attendance could reach 10,000 fans. Central has one of the top-ranked defenses in the state but you can never count out Andrews in this tilt regardless of the fact that they’re a 2A school.
East Henderson at Swain County
Swain will set out to defend their 1AA state championship tonight but will do so against a very quick and aggressive East Henderson team. Although Swain is 1A and East is 3A, don’t underestimate the Maroon Devils' power and ability to score bunches with their potent veer offense. Steffon Hill is a great college prospect for East and should be electric on the field.
Burns at Crest
Another great rivalry in the state, Burns hopes that they can build on last year’s victory and make another run at the South Mountain championship. Crest is coming off of back-to-back title game appearances and is loaded with skill talent on both sides of the ball.
The only certain thing about the game is the you’ll need to arrive early to have a seat, otherwise you’ll most likely be standing.