As both Pickerington Central and Marion-Franklin can attest, there's a reason opening week of high school football is known as much for its missteps as it is for signaling that a new season has begun.

As both Pickerington Central and Marion-Franklin can attest, there's a reason opening week of high school football is known as much for its missteps as it is for signaling that a new season has begun.

In their respective openers, the Tigers and Red Devils each had areas of weakness exposed while also experiencing some of the positives that have been associated with their tradition-rich programs.

On Friday, Aug. 31, both teams will attempt to prove that they remain on track for another season filled with championships when Central plays host to Marion-Franklin.

It marks the first meeting between the programs since 2004 when Central won 44-20 in the first round of the Division II, Region 7 playoffs.

The Red Devils, who were making their first postseason appearance that season, have since made two state semifinal appearances, including last season when they finished 13-1.

Central has earned state runner-up finishes twice since that time, including last year when it lost the Division I state final 34-13 to Cleveland St. Ignatius and finished 11-3.

The Red Devils opened with a 20-14 win over Brookhaven on Aug. 24 and the Tigers lost to Cincinnati Colerain 28-15 the next day in the Skyline Chili Crosstown Showdown at the University of Cincinnati.

"We've got to get better or we're going to get dragged through the mud," Marion-Franklin coach Brian Haffele."We'll have to play perfectly to be in the game with (Central)."

"I thought we played (Colerain) toe-to-toe," Central coach Jay Sharrett said."Some of the guys got their first taste of a high-level regional final atmosphere. What we need to do is regroup. We're pretty excited about playing a home game in week two because we haven't done that for a while."

Although Marion-Franklin averaged 39 points a game last season and returns senior quarterback Corry Benson and senior wide receivers Jaron Dukes and Joe Alverson, it was limited to 215 total yards against Brookhaven.

According to Haffele, Benson was banged up during the preseason and then suffered turf toe in the first half against the Bearcats. He remained in the game, however, and finished 4-for-12 passing for 113 yards while rushing for 41 yards and a touchdown on 15 attempts.

Dukes, who has verbally committed to Michigan, and Alverson each had one catch. Alverson also made a touchdown-saving interception at the 2-yard line with 15 seconds remaining.

That trio of athletes, along with an offensive line led by senior Damon Dillard (6-foot-4, 350 pounds), will face a Tigers' defensive unit that gave up more than 350 yards against Colerain.

Taco Charlton, who also has verbally committed to Michigan, and Greg Basalyga lead a defense that has numerous new faces from a year ago.

"The one good thing about playing a team like Colerain is that they've also got a good quarterback that can make the initial rush miss and can jump-start a drive pretty quickly," Sharrett said.

Central has a new quarterback in junior Colby Simkins, who completed eight of 19 passes for 175 yards with one touchdown and one interception against Colerain. His primary targets were Cris Reyes (three catches for 69 yards, one touchdown) and Charlton (two catches for 17 yards).

While Simkins was held to 16 yards on 10 rushes, Brent Walton had a team-best 55 yards rushing on seven attempts and Tawain Gordon added 23 yards on five carries.

Although Haffele wasn't happy with his team's offense against Brookhaven, he was pleased with how a young group of defensive linemen and linebackers endured on opening night.

Senior Shevonn Hairston is starting for the first time on the line while sophomore Shemar Moss is leading the linebacking corps, according to Haffele.

"We've got to get everything better," Haffele said. "Our offensive line did not play well. (Central) is real physical and they've got a ton of kids. I know coach Sharrett does a good job getting kids to play hard. Our defense has to play well again and our offense has to play better."