High school football season is finally here. After two weeks of official practices, Cayuga County-area teams will hit the field to begin their 2019 seasons on Friday.
Some, like Skaneateles or Weedsport, are setting out to defend section championships. Others, like Auburn and Cato-Meridian, hope to take the next step to title contenders.
Here's what's on the schedule for Cayuga County-area teams in Week 1:
Cato-Meridian (0-0) vs. Herkimer (0-0), 7 p.m.
After dropping their first three games last season, the Blue Devils reeled off three straight wins and then shocked Section III with a 22-14 upset over No. 1 seed Frankfort-Schuyler in the quarterfinals of the Class D tournament.
Cato-Meridian couldn't pull off another upset in the semifinals, falling to No. 4 Onondaga to finish the season 5-4.
This season, the Blue Devils should have a senior-heavy team capable of another strong year. Now in Class C, Cato-Meridian opens its season with the 2018 Class D finalist Magicians.
The two teams matched up in the regular season finale last season, with Cato-Meridian emerging with a 21-16 win.
Auburn (0-0) at Henninger (0-0), 6 p.m.
Despite entering its second season with a Class A classification, the Maroons open their season against a Class AA team that finished 1-8 last year.
The two programs have met eight times since 2007, with the Black Knights holding a 5-3 advantage in those games. Auburn did get the upper hand in its last visit to Henninger, blowing out the Black Knights 58-25 in 2016.
Henninger allowed 20 or more points in eight of its nine games last season, so this could be an opportune moment for Auburn to test out its revamped offense.
Skaneateles (0-0) at Holland Patent (0-0), 7 p.m.
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Few teams were as successful as the Lakers from 2017 to 2018. Skaneateles captured the Class C state crown in 2017, moved up to Class B in 2018 and advanced all the way to the state semifinals before bowing out to Section V champion Batavia.
Many of the players that led Skaneateles to a 23-2 record over those two seasons, which included a 17-game winning streak, are lost to graduation; a new group of players will take the reins in 2019.
Back in Class C after a year away, the schedule-makers did no favors to the Lakers to open the season. Skaneateles will travel to Holland Patent, the defending Class C champion. This match-up between the last two Section III Class C champions should be a doozy, and could serve as a measuring stick for a young Skaneateles team.
Port Byron/Union Springs (0-0) vs. Utica Notre Dame (0-0), 7 p.m.
Few teams were likely looking forward to a fresh start than the Panthers, who went winless in 2018. Port Byron/Union Springs has had its ups and downs over the last few seasons; before going winless last year, the Panthers were 3-5 in 2017 and 8-0 in 2016 as past of Section III's NFF league.
Under new head coach Collin Dillabough, who takes over for Rob Piascik, Port Byron/Union Springs hopes to get back on track in 2019. The Panthers' season starts at home against a Jugglers squad that picked up seven wins last year.
Jordan-Elbridge (0-0) at Lowville (0-0), 7 p.m.
Under second-year head coach Joe Fiacchi, the Eagles look to continue the momentum after winning five games last season.
Jordan-Elbridge lost only six seniors from last year's roster, but those players will be difficult to replace. Jeremiah Sparks was the team's leader in passing and rushing yards, while finishing second in receiving yards. The do-it-all receiver and defensive back was a second team all-state selection in Class C. His production will be difficult to replace.
In Lowville, the Eagles will face a Raiders team that went 7-2 with a top-notch defense in 2018.
Moravia (0-0) at Bainbridge Guilford (0-0), 7 p.m.
Cayuga County's lone Section IV team hopes to get back on track after a 2-7 season in 2018. The Blue Devils were riddled with injuries to start the season last year, but bounced back to win two of their final five games.
If Moravia is to return to previous form — its last winning season was 2015 — the defense will need improvement. The Blue Devils allowed 317 points last season, the fourth-highest in all of Section IV.