It didn't take long for the Parkway Conference to feature a pretty interesting matchup this season -- like, the first week of the season.
Tomorrow is opening night for high school football around the WPIAL and a pair of perennial Class AAA powerhouses will square off in a key conference game when Central Valley travels to Montour.
"Playing in the Parkway, every win is important," Montour coach Lou Cerro said. "Obviously, you want to start out with a win. Playing at home, it's going to be an exciting atmosphere and we're looking forward to the challenge."
Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. at Thomas J. Birko Stadium on the Montour campus in Robinson Township.
"Every team wants a good start," Central Valley coach Mark Lyons said. "You want to gain confidence early enough. Everyone is excited and anxious to get started.
"You want to see all that work you put in during the offseason and in the weight room pay off and how you measure up against your opponent."
These two teams also have a bit of history -- even if it takes into account just the past four years.
With the exception of last year's 38-0 shutout victory by Central Valley, the pair have played some fairly close games in the past. Central Valley -- a merger of Center and Monaca -- began playing in the 2010 season.
Two years ago, Montour needed overtime to slip past the Warriors, 28-27. In 2011, Central Valley won the regular-season meeting, 27-16, but ended up losing to the Spartans in the WPIAL semifinals, 21-14.
In 2010, the rivalry started when Central Valley lost to Montour, 12-7, during the regular season. The Warriors, however, ended up beating the Spartans in the WPIAL title game, 24-7.
"We have a lot of young kids with experience and I've been pleased with what I've seen through camp," Cerro said. "We hope our scrimmages springboard us into our opener.
"If we're not ready for Central Valley, we're going to get beat up."
Montour is coming off a 5-5 season after losing in the first round of the WPIAL playoffs, but Cerro had to replace a pair of key skill players who graduated, quarterback Tynen Greer and star tailback Cole Macek.
Junior Randall Labrie is expected to start at quarterback and should have good targets in senior tight end Logan Devoer and junior receiver Tyler Cars-well, who had 20 receptions last season.
On the ground, junior running back David Haseleu will likely carry the workload out of the backfield.
"Montour is always well coached and we expect a challenge from them," Lyons said. "Everybody wants to start with a clean slate, but the important thing is to get off with a good start."
Central Valley enters the season as the Post-Gazette's No. 3-ranked Class AAA team. The Warriors finished behind West Allegheny in the Parkway Conference last season and lost to the Indians in the WPIAL Class AAA championship game
"We're in a unique situation where we have a business-like approach with our guys," Lyons said. "We've been somewhat anxious to get the season going, but we understand we don't want to rush the process. It's an old cliché, but we're concentrating on taking everything day to day.
"We haven't set any goals besides working to get better every day, but we're still excited about getting going with the season."
Central Valley went 11-2 last season and owns a 41-10 overall record in the school's four years of existence.
"More than anything, we need to have everything in order and need a healthy depth chart early in the season," Lyons said. "You can try to simulate games in practices and scrimmages, but it's tough to recreate the pace of a game. It's much quicker, so guys will need to get comfortable with that pace."
The Warriors return a lot of depth on both sides of the ball, including star tailback Jordan Whitehead and senior quarterback John George. Whitehead, who is being recruited by many NCAA Division I programs, scored 20 touchdowns as a sophomore. George took over quarterback duties late last season and threw for 703 yards and added another 403 rushing yards.
"They're a good team," Cerro said. "They're explosive and have one of the best players in the WPIAL in Jordan Whitehead, but they're not a one-man team. We have to be ready to play with them."
For Lyons, keeping his team focused on fundamentals as well as overall preparation will be the biggest factor entering this first game.
"We'll have to minimize our turnovers," Lyons said. "At this point in the season, you want to make sure all your T's are crossed and all your I's are dotted.
"All those things come along with the early-season jitters, but you try to work through that during your scrimmages. Then you get the right mindset and move forward."
ABOUT THE GAME
n Game: Central Valley vs. Montour.
n When: 7:30 p.m. Friday.
n Where: Thomas J. Birko Memorial Stadium
n Skinny: In the ultra-competitive Parkway Conference, every game is a big one. The winner of this takes step forward as a title contender.