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The opening week of the North Carolina High School Athletic Association football season kicks off Friday night. Here’s a breakdown of season-opening matchups for Johnstonian News readership area teams, with a pair of home openers and two road games.
At all sites, kickoff is set for 7 p.m.
Red Springs at North Johnston
To kick off first-year head coach Michael Barnett’s tenure, North Johnston will welcome in 2-A Red Springs from the Three Rivers Conference to Ben E. Strifert Stadium.
Playing against the Red Devils, who finished with a 6-5 record last season, the Panthers will have their first chance to respond to a 3-8 campaign in 2018. The matchup will also be the first official chance for the team to unveil its new triple-option offense, brought in by Barnett in the offseason.
Corinth Holders at Millbrook
Traveling to Raleigh, the Pirates will face Millbrook High.
Corinth Holders head coach Adam Khavari expects to run with a young roster this season, and the learning will start early.
The Wildcats and Pirates are both coming off losing seasons last year and looking to improve in conferences dominated by Wake County powerhouse football programs in Raleigh Cardinal Gibbons and Wake Forest.
The game will be the first opportunity for the Pirates young offensive line to prove themselves as the offense figures out its identity. In the early season, the program expects to rely heavily on its defense, which is the more experienced unit.
Princeton at Pamlico County
How will Princeton follow up on one of its best seasons in recent memory?
The Bulldogs will get their first opportunity to answer that question Friday, as the reigning champions of the 1-A Carolina Conference travel to Bayboro to take on Pamlico County.
Much like the 9-1 Princeton program in 2018, the Ron Cook-coached Hurricanes are coming off a 13-2 record last season that took the team all the way to the NCHSAA 1-A championship against Murphy High.
Over the summer, head coach Travis Gaster talked often about not only chasing another conference championship, but making a run in the playoffs for the big trophy late in the season. The first game of the season will be a good opportunity for his program to assert they’re in position to take that next step.
Spring Creek at Smithfield-Selma
Spartans head coach Mike Parrish has circled the first game of the year at Charles T. Tucker Stadium at 7 p.m. as an opportunity for his program to build some momentum and confidence early.
This season, the third-year head coach has made it a goal to start teaching his players how to win with improved strength across the roster. Smithfield-Selma has won just two games the last four seasons and only seven since 2010 — but hope to capture more this season, starting with the Gators, an independent program not affiliated with a conference for 2019.
Playing against another program coming off a 1-10 finish might just provide the opportunity for the Spartans to capture that elusive season-opening win for the first time since 2007.