Eldorado High School's football schedule took a bit of a shakeup this season.
It's been the norm for the better part of three years now that the Eagles open up with perennial rival Carmi-White County. That game has been highly regarded as a Super Bowl of sorts between the two schools.
Enter 2013 and Eldorado now opens its Week 1 march to the postseason with Sesser-Valier-Waltonville-Woodlawn, but don't judge the schedule to think this particular game has any less meaning.
It's been well documented that Eldorado head coach Brandon Hampton is 0-6 in his tenure against the Red Devils and after a Week 9 loss to Sesser-Valier-Waltonville-Woodlawn last season, this game has been circled on the schedule for some time now.
"Very rarely does it happen where the Week 9 opponent becomes the Week 1 opponent, but that's where we are at right now," Hampton said. "Sesser-Valier is a team in the last couple of years have found a way to win - and win late - against us. That loss a year ago really stung. We weren't able to get into the playoffs and our kids have thought about that game, that season for the better part of a year now."
To add fuel to the fire, the Eagles begin their journey on the road, which Hampton said presents another challenge all on its own.
"Sesser-Valier is a team that has been in the playoffs five years in a row," he said. "They are a program that has had a lot of recent success and it's not very long ago, they were undefeated and won a conference championship. They have a lot of good players, they've worked hard in the weight room. It'll be interesting when you play on the road."
To Hampton's credit, he counters with a ballclub that is truly senior-laden. Eldorado returns seven seniors on offense and nine seniors on defense.
Hampton is all too familiar with the makeup of his team, but admittedly the unknown is just seeing how his guys react when the football is kicked off.
"We do have some new guys in some new spots and we're anxious to see them play there," Hampton said. "Just like we have a new wrinkle or two in our offensive, defensive and kicking game package, you know Sesser does as well.
"Every coach in the state understands how important it is to get off to a good start Week 1.
You work so hard. You feel like you have worked from November, until now and then Friday night. There is such elation from being 1-0 as opposed to being 0-1 and not getting it done."
Hampton makes it a point of emphasis to preach "practice like you play" and in the early going, he's been impressed with how clean his guys have been in formations.
Page 2 of 2 - "We haven't put the ball on the ground, we've handled it in kicking situations," Hampton said. "Week 1 you just don't want to go out there and beat yourself. You don't want to drop kicks, punts and put the ball on the ground on offense. We're looking for an offensive identity where our team is smart and physical."
As for the Red Devils, Hampton doesn't expect much change from S-V-W-W, despite having some new players in key positions.
"Sesser is really strong offensively" Hampton added. "They give you a lot of different formations and they do a good job at taking advantage of what their people do. They'll move a tight end or a wing around, they don't just lineup the same way very often. It's a lot of window dressing, they run their base plays. They played us really well in the second half a year ago, so we anticipate that's what kind of look we'll get. But, they'll have a strong running game with a big fullback. They've been able to use weapons that a lot of teams in the conference don't have with big tight ends. They have new starting quarterback that likes to get out of the pocket and they've had a good offeseason. We expect to see them ready to go Week 1."
Hampton hopes his Eagles are ready to go too.
Michael Dann can be reached at mdann@dailyregister.