PLYMOUTH — In what has become a bit of a tradition, Plymouth's Rockies will hit the field to once again open their season with East Noble. Also somewhat of a tradition, the Knights come into the contest rated in the states top 10 in class 4A and with an All-State caliber quarterback.
"He (Bailey Parker) doesn't look exactly like their old starter but he produces the same way," said Plymouth head coach John Barron. "He's long, he looks like a split end but he is physical. He'll mix it up with you, and he can run. We have to keep our eye on him."
"He's got some targets," said Barron. "(Gage Ernsberger) their split end, that you can tell just wants the ball. Their slot receiver is a guy that they like to get the ball in his hands the same way we do with (Seth) Rundell and their running back played a lot last year against us."
"We've had some close games with them," said Barron. "You develop a rivalry with a team like that, especially when they beat you."
In the last four meetings between the two, Plymouth has come away with just one win.
This year's Rockie squad is ancient compared to some teams. In all, 22 seniors will suit up each Friday night and the vast majority will see the field for a considerable amount of time.
"It's been a good start. It seems like the summer flew by. We had a really good camp, a good scrimmage," said Barron. "Our kids seem to be locked in and ready to go."
"I really like this group. We have a big senior class with a lot of talent and experience coupled with a good junior class and some good sophomores," he said. "They've been playing a lot of sports for a long time together. There are a lot of multi-sport athletes in this group. We have a lot of kids who football is their only thing and you really get lucky as a coach when you have that mix of kids."
While some of those seniors have been patiently waiting their turn, there is a lot of experience coming back.
"We have a lot of guys back on both sides of the football," said Barron. "(Seth) Rundell can do a lot of things and he's really fun to coach. He's always very competitive. We never have to tell him to finish off a run."
"We have our starting quarterback returning and that always helps when you have a kid you've been through the fire with," said Barron of son Joe. "He's bigger and he throws the ball with a little bit more zip to it but he's a gunslinger. He takes risks and sometimes you shake your head and I think he drives (Offensive Coordinator) Mike (Kershner) crazy sometimes but the thing we like is that he distributes the ball. If he has five receivers on the field he'll throw to all five of them."
"Our offensive line has good size," he said. "They are all big strong physical kids. Upfront defensively we have (Blake) Davis back at end, we have (Diego) Garcia back at end and you have some seniors that have shown that they can play. All our linebackers have done some really good things.
"All these guys give us a chance. You have that kind of group you have a chance."
Game time at Plymouth is 7:30 p.m.