The 2019 high school football season begins Thursday night with a couple area nonconference games.

The season kicks off in earnest Friday night, and it won’t take long to separate the pretenders from the contenders in a couple of area conferences.

The Big Eight and the Rock Valley conferences both feature opening-night games that could go a long way in determining conference champions.

In the Rock Valley, Edgerton plays at McFarland. And in the Big Eight’s showcase game Friday night, defending conference co-champions square off as Madison Memorial plays at Sun Prairie.

Locally, the city schools open up their final regular season of play in the Big Eight, as well. Janesville Craig hosts Beloit Memorial, while Janesville Parker is at Verona.

Edgerton enters the season ranked No. 2 by the Wisconsin Sports Network in Division 4 and was tabbed the preseason favorite in the Rock Valley.

“We’ve embraced the ranking and know that we’ve got a bull’s-eye on our back now,” Edgerton coach Mike Gregory said. “But McFarland is only one game on our schedule.

“We’re not going to put all our eggs in one basket for one game. Win or lose, there’s a lot more football to be played.”

McFarland beat Edgerton in Week 1 last year on the way to a 9-0 season. The Crimson Tide finished 8-1 but made it to the state quarterfinals.

Memorial and Sun Prairie shared the Big Eight title a year ago. Both teams are expected to contend again this season, along with Verona.

Craig is shooting for a third straight playoff berth, and coach Adam Bunderson knows getting off to a strong start is imperative.

“We’re focusing solely on Beloit right now, but we know we’ve got a chance to be 2-0 after Week 2 and headed in the right direction,” Bunderson said of his team which plays crosstown rival Parker its second game.

Kreger and the Vikings know their first test will be a tough one, but they feel if they can be .500 after four weeks they could make a run back to the postseason.

“They want to win two of the first four games,” Kreger said. “If you break it down day by day and in chunks, I think that’s better. I think you stay more focused than, ‘Hey, let’s just make the playoffs.’

“Obviously we want to win more than that, but at least two of the first four would make it a lot easier than trying to climb out of a hole.”

The 2019 season is upon us. Let the fun begin.

Beloit Memorial (0-0) at Janesville Craig (0-0), Big Eight, 7 p.m., Friday, Monterey Stadium—These longtime rivals meet for the last time as Big Eight opponents.

The Cougars finished 6-4 and qualified for the playoffs for the second straight season a year ago. The Purple Knights were 2-7 under Rodney Wedig, now the coach at Milton.

Beloit, under first-year coach Ken DuBose, has to get better defensively. The Knights allowed nearly 30 points a game last season.

“I’m not sure what to expect from Beloit, even after looking at film of their scrimmage,” Bunderson said. “I think you’ll see them in a spread offense, and it looks like they’re not afraid to throw long with the athletes they have.

“I’ve got to believe that we will be able to move the ball on them, but we also can put the ball on the ground five or six times like we did in our scrimmage.”

Craig looks to senior Eric Hughes, who takes over at quarterback, to lead the way. Hughes had a solid scrimmage, and Bunderson believes he can have a breakout season.

“Eric has a good grasp of what we’re trying to do offensively,” Bunderson said. “He’s a dual threat, because he’s got a strong arm and runs well.

“And for us defensively, it all comes down to knowing your assignments and bringing the energy and effort on every play.”

Best guess: Craig 34, Beloit 20

Janesville Parker (0-0) at Verona (0-0), Big Eight, 7 p.m., Friday, Verona High School—A tough opening task for the Vikings. Verona is the trendy pick to win the Big Eight, while Parker is still a young team coming off a winless 2018 season.

The Wildcats have two Division I recruits on the offensive line—Gunnar Kilen and Adam Vandervest (Western Michigan)—as well as University of Wisconsin 2021 commit Jackson Acker at tailback and second-team all-Big Eight quarterback Adam Bekx.

If Parker is going to rebound from a disappointing 2018, the Vikings have to find a way to score points.

In nine games last season, Parker scored 53 points and was shut out four times.

“Though we are young again, we have a lot of returning starters,” head coach Clayton Kreger said. “Last year we started between 14 and 17 sophomores each game. With small groups in the Class of 2018 and 2019, we will continue to rely on our deep incoming junior class.

“In the last year of the Big Eight, our goal is for five wins and a playoff berth.”

Best guess: Verona 42, Parker 6

Edgerton (0-0) at McFarland (0-0), Rock Valley, 7 p.m. Friday, McFarland High School--These two teams enter the season as co-favorites in the Rock Valley. McFarland went undefeated in winning the undisputed Rock title last season, handing Edgerton its only regular-season loss in Week 1.

McFarland averaged 40 points a game last season and was on a roll heading into the postseason before being upset by Pewaukee in the first round in Division 3. The defense allowed only 13.4 points per game.

“They’ve got six starters back on defense, including everybody up front,” Gregory said of McFarland. “That’s going to be their strong suit this season.

“Offensively, they lost most of their skill position players, but they’ll reload and be a very formidable offense once again I’m sure.”

Edgerton lost its season opener to McFarland last season before rattling off a school-record 10 straight wins before losing to Lakeside Lutheran in a Division 4 quarterfinal.

“It’s a huge game because of what happened last year,” Gregory said. “But there are some other teams in our league that are also going to have a say in the matter before it’s all said and done.

“And our kids remember the feeling they had in losing to them last year. We want to come out Friday night and be the ones to set the tone early.”

Best guess: Edgerton 28, McFarland 13

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