Sure, every game matters.
But some matter just a little more.
They include yardsticks, grudge matches or uncommon challenges. They can launch or derail early momentum. It may not be the toughest game, but it is the one that has “shoulda, coulda, woulda” written across it.
Whatever you call it, in the opening three weeks of the season, each local football team has at least one.
Here are some early tests to watch.
Week 1 Greenwood at Anderson
It’s a first-time meeting for the Class 4A Woodmen and the Class 5A Indians, both of whom are ranked just outside the preseason top 10 in their respective classes. That fills this contest with mystery and intrigue.
Much like Greenwood (8-4 last season), Anderson (6-4) was in every game and is a program on the rise with the consolidation of the city’s high schools last year. (Anderson has 2,578 students, compared with 1,167 at Greenwood.)
The two share no common opponents, though, so handicapping this one is tough. While coaches will prepare their teams as they are able, this one is more of a blank slate.
That means a lot of learning and adjustments will be made after the ball is teed up. The team that can best execute its offensive scheme and react defensively will win. For a team that returns senior quarterback Ben Heller, and most skill position players, that should favor the Woodmen.
Franklin at Seymour
The Grizzly Cubs won three straight out of the gate last season (Seymour, Shelbyville and Greensburg) with a senior-dominated team. Those three opponents are back, with an opening night visit to the Owls the biggest challenge.
With untested starters at the key skill positions, coach Brian Harbin’s team will be challenged to stay within its roles and coalesce quickly as a unit. This is a test of how far the Cubs’ program has grown in the wake of last season’s improved 5-5 record.
A win here builds confidence and paves the path for another solid start going into the Week 4 Mid-State Conference-opener at Whiteland.