Spend a few minutes perusing the high school football schedules that have been posted on the IHSA web site, and you will notice all sorts of interesting material.
• Joliet Central and Joliet West, both of whom have been playing all their home games on Saturday afternoons, have one Friday night home game each this season.
Central is home against Thornridge on opening night, Aug.29, with a 6:30 kickoff planned. West will entertain Stagg at 6:30 Oct. 10.
The annual battle between the two Joliet Townships, this season at Central, will be played Saturday afternoon, Oct. 18.
• Joliet Catholic hosts Providence on Aug.29 at Memorial Stadium and visits Wheaton North in Week 2 to complete its nonconference schedule.
The Hilltoppers open East Suburban Catholic play Sept. 12 at Carmel of Mundelein. Two weeks later, they visit new ESCC member Marian Central in Woodstock. Trips to Mundelein and Woodstock within a couple of weeks? Those yellow rockets better be in shape.
As difficult as JCA's schedule appears early on, it will be no picnic later. The Hilltoppers visit Nazareth and host Benet and Marist the final three weeks of the regular season.
• Not every game on Providence's schedule falls into the killer category, but the Celtics not only visit Joliet Catholic on opening night, but they entertain Mount Carmel in Week 3 and travel to St. Rita and Loyola in Weeks 5 and 6.
Lots of teams feel they have rugged schedules, but having those four games among the first six has to put the Celtics right at the top of the difficulty scale. On the other hand, if relatively healthy, they should be ready to tackle whatever the remainder of the regular season and the playoffs have to offer.
• Minooka opens at home against Morris and visits Providence in Week 2 before entering Southwest Prairie wars. Morris has an interesting home game in Week 2, when perennial power Metamora visits.
There are only four other teams in the Northern Illinois Big 12 East, so Morris also will play two Northern Illinois Big 12 crossovers, against Sterling and LaSalle-Peru.
• Neighborhood wars are happening early. Coal City visits Reed Custer for openers and entertains Wilmington in Week 2. Reed-Custer is at Wilmington in Week 4.
It doesn't matter when the Coal City vs. Wilmington game is played, it's always huge. But it is a game that seems to belong toward the end of the schedule rather than early.
• The annual Bolingbrook vs. Lincoln-Way East war comes up Oct. 17 in Frankfort. There is plenty of football to be played before then, but you know this one will be meaningful. How about Dan Darlington coordinating the Bolingbrook offense against coach Rob Zvonar's defense at East?
• Lemont coach Bret Kooi will debut Aug. 29 at Plainfield South. Kooi won two Class 8A state titles during his tenure at Lockport. Under Eric Michaelsen, Lemont has been among the state's most successful programs over the last decade or so. This should work.
• Lincoln-Way West opens at Sycamore, which the Warriors may be tired of seeing. Actually, Dave Ernst and his staff welcome the opportunity to play good competition, it's just that Sycamore has happened to have West's number in recent years. It's about time the trend was reversed.
• Lockport debuts on its new artificial turf Sept. 5 against Lake Park. The Porters will host Lincoln-Way East, Bolingbrook, Joliet Central and Joliet West in the SouthWest Suburban Blue.
• Rather than us attempting to pick out key match-ups in the Southwest Prairie, let's just say that week after week, games of high local interest will be contested. The four Plainfields, Minooka, Romeoville and the two Oswegos make for some good rivalry games year after year.
All in all, there is plenty to look forward throughout the area. As my good friend Dave Dwyer would tell you, the number that matters on this July 4 holiday is 56. Yes, only 56 days until opening night.