The hot summer of early morning workouts and two-a-day practices have come and gone.
The pigskins are inflated, the pads and cleats are laced up tight and Friday evening lights are again ready to beam down on high school football players across the area.
The storylines are many as the first games of the 2015 season get ready to kick off tonight and Saturday.
ST. MICHAEL’S at SANTA FE HIGH, tonight, 7 p.m.
As always, the clash between bitter local rivals takes center stage. In what has been a lopsided affair of late for the Class 4A Horsemen, the 6A Demons seem to be closing the gap somewhat. Before winning just 28-14 last season, St. Mike’s had won the previous five straight by a combined score of 265-41. The Horsemen, who will rely on quarterback tandem of senior Isaac Chavez and junior Chross Jaramillo, have owned the advantage since 2000, going 11-4 over that span.
SILVER at CAPITAL, tonight, 7 p.m.
Hopeful of a long-awaited playoff berth, the Jaguars will get a quick test of just how far they’ve come under coach Bill Moon in a matchup with the 4A state semifinalists Colts, who are perennial playoff contenders. A win behind fourth-year quarterback Augustine Larranaga just might signal a change in fortune for Capital.
SANTA FE INDIAN SCHOOL at CUBA, tonight, 7 p.m.
Under their third head coach in as many years, the independent 4A Braves look to build some continuity under new mentor Wayne Thompson, who is actually in his second season with the program after moving up from assistant coach.
ESPAÑOLA VALLEY at EL PASO CATHEDRAL, tonight, 7 p.m.
After a 4-1 start, the 5A Sundevils appeared poised to make a run at a playoff berth before losing four in a row. But the fighting Irish are a team that Española Valley can handle, even on the road. A Sundevils win would be huge for the program and give it a big jump start on the season.
LOS ALAMOS at POJOAQUE VALLEY, tonight, 7 p.m.
The 4A Elks are in the midst of the school’s best-ever stretch of football, reaching the playoffs three straight years and looking to earn a first-ever home playoff game behind quarterback Chris Quintana, but the 5A Hilltoppers own a 3-2 series advantage over the past five meetings.
ROBERTSON at PORTALES, tonight, 7 p.m.
Fresh off a disappointing elimination in their first round of the playoffs, the 4A Cardinals and dominating linebacker Francisco Arguello are on a mission to erase the bitter memories of what might have been last season. The 4A Rams, quarterfinalists a year ago, will provide a strong opening-day test.
CLAYTON at WEST LAS VEGAS, tonight, 7 p.m.
In year two of coach Adrian Gonzalez’s remodeling process, the 4A Dons face a challenge in the 3A state runner-up Yellowjackets. But WLV should be prepared for the smash-mouth style of play Clayton prefers.
BERNALILLO at TAOS, tonight, 7 p.m.
Athletes abound for the 4A Tigers, but getting them to act in cohesion will be new coach Art Abreu’s task. A former college coach, Abreu Jr. has brought discipline and moxie to the task.
ESCALANTE at TUCUMCARI, tonight, 7 p.m.
The defending 2A state champion Lobos have what on paper is something of an easy game against the 3A Rattlers, winless last season. And explosive Escalante quarterback Dominic Montaño wants to make sure the Lobos don’t get bitten by the upset bug.
RATON at McCURDY, Saturday, 1 p.m.
The young 2A Bobcats will rely on their speed against the bigger 3A Tigers in what could be a grueling opening-day challenge.
QUESTA vs. JAL Saturday, 2 p.m. at Moriarty
The 2A Wildcats, looking to take their season a step further than last year, face off against a Panthers squad that is coming off a 1-9 season.