While most area football teams continue to wait for their opportunity to take the field, the time for Friday Night Lights has arrived for Sunnyvale.
The Raiders will hit the road to take on Waco Connally at 7 p.m. Friday at Mac Peoples Stadium in Waco.
According to the University Interscholastic League’s plan to combat the risk due to the COVID-19 pandemic, teams in Class 6A and 5A will not begin their seasons until Sept. 24.
That includes nearly every team in Dallas County, with the exception being Sunnyvale, which is in Class 4A Division II.
Schools in Classes 1A-4A were given the green light to begin workouts earlier this month, and therefore, are getting their seasons started on time.
Friday’s opener should be a good one between a pair of teams who each went 12-1 last season in advancing to the regional semifinals.
The Raiders will have a new quarterback, albeit with a familiar name after the graduation of Tripp McAda.
Junior Max McAda is expected to take over the job. McAda flashed his potential in limited action last season, completing 7-of-11 passes and also showing his ability on the ground, with 30 carries for 234 yards.
McAda is surrounded by some good options on offense.
Senior Obi Arinze led the team in rushing , with 97 carries for 1,046 yards and nine touchdowns on his way to first-team all-district honors, while senior Alex Luna is also coming off a strong season in which he had 92 carries for 845 yards and 10 scores.
McAda will also have an all-district wide receiver to throw to in senior Noah McDill, who recorded 45 receptions for 899 yards and 14 touchdowns.
Sunnyvale must replace a pair of first-team all-district offensive lineman, but they do return second-teamer Damon Bryant.
The Raiders also return five starters on the defensive side of the ball.
McDill was also a first-team all-district selection at defensive back and he is joined in the secondary by junior Landry Laird. McAda was also a first-team safety last season.
Junior Brent Winfree returns on the defensive line and the linebacker corps should be a good one with seniors Jake Taylor, Hudson Smith, Gage Andrews and Luna.
Sunnyvale also has a weapon in special teams with kicker Jake Pecina, who connected on 58-of-62 extra points and 4-of-5 field goals.
The Raider defense will be tasked at slowing down Connally dual-threat quarterback Kavian Gaither, who earned district most valuable player honors last season.
The Cadets also return three all-district offensive lineman, as well as all-district wide receiver Perrish Cox III.
Cox III is also a standout defensive back and is one of six starters back on the defensive side of the ball.
Both teams won their first 12 games last season before falling in the regional semifinals. The Raiders saw their road come to an end with a 49-28 loss to eventual state champion Pleasant Grove, while Connally fell to traditional power Gilmer, 35-20.