One of the WPIAL's top athletes will play against one of the WPIAL's top teams on Friday night in an early-season Class AAA Big Nine Conference clash.
Ringgold and quarterback Nico Law, one of the best dual-threat quarterbacks in the state, will travel to Jefferson Hills to play No. 2-ranked Thomas Jefferson Friday night.
Since moving from the Keystone Conference to the Big Nine Conference in 2012, Ringgold has struggled against the Jaguars, like so many other teams have. In 2012 the Rams lost, 41-14, at Thomas Jefferson and last season they lost, 31-10, at home.
Nick Milchovich is in his first year as head coach at Ringgold. He previously coached at Peters Township. Milchovich is well aware of the challenge that awaits his team in the season opener.
"It is one way to open the season I guess," Milchovich said. "We are going to find out really quickly how good we are. Thomas Jefferson has been the standard in the conference for ... I can't even tell you how many years. To start the year out with them, it is a strong test and hopefully we are able to pass it."
With Law, a 6-foot-1, 185-pound senior, at quarterback, Ringgold will have a puncher's chance against Thomas Jefferson.
"Our kids have seen him, they know how strong he is and how solid of an arm he has," Thomas Jefferson coach Bill Cherpak said. "In that sense they are familiar with who he is. Now what they do, it is going to be different but there is a little familiarity."
Law became one of the few players in WPIAL history to rush and pass for 1,000 yards each during the regular season. He rushed for 1,210 yards and threw for 1,494 yards last year.
"Sure he is a great athlete, watching him on film that just stands out right away," Milchovich said. "Anybody can see that he has a lot of speed and agility. What has impressed me the most is how he throws the ball. He has quite an arm and he is accurate; his legs are an additional weapon.
"He can stand back there and throw the ball and beat you that way. They throw the term 'athlete' around a lot, Nico is a quarterback who just happens to be an athlete."
Law, a two-way starter, is one of eight starters back on offense and one of seven on defense.
While Ringgold knows what it has with Law, there is plenty of uncertainty at the quarterback position for Thomas Jefferson where Chase Winovich and Christian Briesinger both graduated after sharing duties last season.
Junior Julian Metro and sophomore Bob Kelly are currently splitting time at quarterback for the Jaguars.
"We are still between Julian and Bob, probably both of them will play," Cherpak said. "We will rotate them both."
Thomas Jefferson has to deal with uncertainty at quarterback as well as questions about the opposition.
"It is especially tough for us this year," Cherpak said of Week One preparation. "Not only are we playing Ringgold but they have a new coach. We really don't know what they are going to be doing."
Other positions are much more solidified, including running back where senior Austin Kemp and junior Ricky Daley return. Kemp rushed for 1,101 yards and Daley for 368 yards last season.
"Coach Cherpak is a great coach and he has a great program there," Milchovich said. "They pride themselves on lining up and imposing their will on you.
"Our biggest goal in the offseason was to be in the best physical shape we could be in both in terms of strength and aerobics. We want to be able to stand in there toe-to-toe with them in the fourth quarter."
The upperclassmen on the team have opened the past two seasons against Thomas Jefferson. Milchovich is well aware of the difficulty and importance of the game and he said he will not go out of his way to downplay the significance.
"You can tell the kids all day that it is just another game, but you can't fool the kids," Milchovich said. "They are excited -- of course it is a big game.
"We have a pretty good football team and we are going to prepare and we are going to go over to TJ on Friday and play hard and hopefully not beat ourselves."
ABOUT THE GAME
n Game: Ringgold at Thomas Jefferson.
n When: 7:30 p.m. Friday.
n Where: Thomas Jefferson's Jaguar Stadium.
n Skinny: Thomas Jefferson is the perennial Big Nine favorite, but the Jaguars could be challenged by Ringgold.