After a summer's worth of passing leagues and a few weeks of practices and scrimmages, the Fredonia Hillbillies and Silver Creek-Forestville Black Knights are ready to play a game that counts.
"We're real excited," Silver Creek coach Sean Helmer said. "It's kind of a new start for us with the new kids and faces. But our kids are ready to play another team. I think it's time."
"We're pretty anxious for (the game) to get here," first-year Fredonia coach Mike Marshall said. "We've been tested. We did an intrasquad scrimmage the first day we could hit, then we went to Jamestown to scrimmage Jamestown, Hamburg and East Aurora.
After being an assistant coach under Bob Ball, Mike Marshall is now the head coach at Fredonia. He will take the Hillbillies into Silver Creek tonight for a Class
"We thought we did OK," Marshall continued. "But the true test will come when we face people in our own league."
With only three full weeks of practice, and just two when teams can be in pads, it can be difficult to get a team game-ready, but both Helmer and Marshall are pleased with how their teams have come along.
"You never know," Helmer said. "I know which ones definitely aren't ready, and there are some other kids we'll know when we kick off."
Both the Hillbillies and Black Knights are moving into Class C South this season after a few years playing in other divisions. The Hillbillies are moving back into Class C South after two years playing in Class C North while the Black Knights, after merging programs with Forestville, are moving up from Class D.
"I don't think the kids thing about it too much," Helmer said of the move back up to Class C. "I'm fairly familiar with the league and coaches. I'm excited, but I don't look at it as being that big of a deal."
Marshall, after having been an assistant under former head coach Bob Ball, is also familiar with the Hillbillies' new league opponents, but that's not all he's looking forward to.
"It's not just the familiarity, it's the distance we had to travel," Marshall said. "Last year we had Akron, Wilson and Allegany-Limestone on the road. In a seven-week regular season before the playoffs, and you travel those kinds of distances, it does wear you out. You do get road weary."
Although the Hillbillies and Black Knights haven't played each other in several years, both coaches have an idea of what to expect.
"They have a proven record and a great coach," Marshall noted of Silver Creek. "Coach Helmer always keeps them at the top of their class, so them coming up to Class C is probably going to be a challenge for them, but definitely a challenge for the teams in Class C South to compete against that type of opponent."
"I think they could be the best team in the league," Helmer said of Fredonia. "That's a great test for us. We try to sell to our kids that to be the best, you have to beat the best.
"(Fredonia) is a big school," Helmer continued. "They're just going to replace them with other athletes. They have a number of returners from last year and I expect them to be very good."
Whether or not either team will be able to compete in what should be a tough division remains to be seen. One thing is for sure, however, both teams are ready to get the 2013 season underway.
"I know there's going to be a lot of butterflies," Marshall said. "Last year we had 14 seniors that we lost off the team and this year we have seven, with a lot of juniors, and I brought up three sophomores. So, we've got a lot of people that are participating in their very first varsity game and I know that's going to be exciting for them. I just hope that we can get over the butterflys and get down to business."