The first week of the prep football regular season begins with a bang on Friday, with several big match-ups around the Fort Wayne-area.
While tough to predict just what will happen in the weeks ahead, here are the top five things that will begin to come into focus this Friday:
Just how good (or not good) is South Side?
Many around the SAC have pointed to the Archers as the team that is primed to make the biggest leap in terms of onfield success this season. And why not? With two-way stud Donovan Clark and defensive monster Nathan Braster, South Side has two of the best players in the conference.
But to beat Bishop Dwenger on Friday, and to improve on a four-win season in 2012, the Archers are going to need consistent contributions from players across the board. That means Trae Masten has to be solid at quarterback so teams don't gang up on Clark. It also means the offensive line needs to be able to win battles in the trenches. Taking on a loaded Saints squad will give a good indication on just how much South Side has improved.
Which team has done a better job reloading quickly?
There is no question that by the end of the season, Snider and Bishop Luers will be among the best teams in the state in Class 5A and 3A, respectively. However, with so much inexperience in so many positions, ranking these teams No. 2 in their respective classes in the Associated Press poll seems a bit high entering the season, despite both appearing in the state championship a season ago.
That said, both squads have talent on the roster, as they always do. The matchup between the two on Friday will be a good indicator on which program is further along at replacing the production they lost to graduation.
Does Concordia Lutheran have anything other than David Morrison?
The Cadets undoubtedly showed improvement a season ago by notching two victories in the SAC for the first time since 2009, but the program is still just 4-26 since Dean Doerffler stepped down following that 2009 campaign.
There is no argument to be made against Morrison, the 6-foot-2 quarterback who threw for 1,839 yards and 15 scores as a junior last season. The key to the Cadets' improvement is who Morrison has around him offensively as well as the ability of the defense to slow down opponents. Concordia has a decent-sized senior class, so experience is there.
A Concordia upset of North Side in Week 1 would open some eyes around the area.
Is Homestead's NHC dominance in danger?
While no direct games will affect the Northeast Hoosier Conference standings on Friday, we should learn quite a bit about the trio of teams expected to compete for the title – Homestead, Carroll and East Noble.
The Spartans travel to Huntington North while East Noble goes to Northrop. Both will be tough tests and should be a good barometer for how solid each team is.
Carroll opens at home with Goshen, coached by former Chargers head man Mike Cheviron.
Things won't get interesting in the NHC until league play begins in week 3, but we can start to put the team hierarchy in order beginning Friday.
Is Woodlan about to turn the corner?
When former Harding coach Sherwood Haydock took over the Warriors program in 2011, most assumed Woodlan would be competing among the best in the ACAC soon after. Instead, it has been a slower process for Haydock, who knew coming in that a program which hasn't had a winning season since 2005 would need more than one season to evolve into a contender.
Woodlan improved from one win in 2011 to three in 2012. With eight offensive starters back, including quarterback Corbin Smith, running back Jaylin Bennett and wideout Greg White, there is plenty to be optimistic about.
Knocking Bellmont off at home on Friday would be the Warriors' first Week 1 win since 2006, and certainly fuel momentum going forward.