Butler High football coach Brian Hales said the first week of football season is a little like Christmas.
“It’s just the newness of everything,” Hales said. “It’s like Christmas morning. You open up everything and see what you’ve got. I mean, you kind of see through practices and scrimmages, but you don’t really know until you hit that first game. That’s when you find out who you are.”
A handful of Observer-area high schools began the season last week. But the majority of schools kick off Thursday and Friday, beginning with a doubleheader Thursday at the Matthews SportsPlex: Indian Trail’s Sun Valley High will face Charlotte Christian at 5 p.m., followed by Butler against Hough at 8.
Butler is No. 8 in the Observer’s preseason Sweet 16 poll. Hough is No. 7.
This will be the third meeting ever between the two schools, and Butler has won both prior encounters — 21-10 in 2016, and 35-3 in 2015.
“They’re the unknown,” Hales said of Hough. “They’ve got a lot of moving parts coming in there, year to year. So it’s tough to base a lot on what they did last year because we don’t know who’s going to be there this year. But they’ll have a lot of great athletes and great size up front.”
Hough coach Matthew Jenkins’ team returns 10 starters and 27 lettermen from an 11-3 team. Among the returnees is junior running back Evan Pryor, a top five recruit nationally at his position. Pryor will run behind a big offensive line, led by senior Chance Carroll (6-foot-3, 292 pounds) and junior Timmy Artis (6-3, 305).
Defensively, Hough will be led by senior linebacker Storm Monroe (5-10, 215), a Davidson recruit, and big sophomore nose guard Curtis Neal (6-3, 300).
Butler’s strength is on the offensive line, where three-year starters Anthony Carter (6-5, 305), Tre Richburg (6-2, 285) and Leo Arredondo (6-1, 270) all return.
Hales figures that Hough will concentrate its efforts against those guys, to try to take away his star running back Jamal Worthy, and to force junior quarterback Parish Metzger, a newcomer, to throw the ball.
“I’m really interested to see how we handle that,” Hales said.
He’s also interested to see how Butler handles a front-loaded schedule.
The Bulldogs’ first three games are against Hough, Sweet 16 No. 1 Mallard Creek and No. 4 Richmond Senior, and none are at home.
“Scheduling big games,” Hales said, “I think that’s huge for us as far as our development, seeing where we’re at. You learn a lot about yourself that way.”
▪ With a chance of rainy weather and storms in the area Friday, four games have been moved to Thursday at 7: Winston-Salem Quality Education at Pine Lake Prep; South Rowan at Carson; Columbia’s C.A. Johnson; and Aiken at Chester.
▪ The Observer will have a full breakdown of Friday’s scheduled games in Friday’s print editions and online Thursday afternoon at charlotteobserver.com