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Sure-fire thrillers

Slotback Jalen Hicks and his Ferris Saxons defeated the Central Valley Bears in the 2012 opener at Roos Field in Cheney. (Jesse Tinsley)
Slotback Jalen Hicks and his Ferris Saxons defeated the Central Valley Bears in the 2012 opener at Roos Field in Cheney. (Jesse Tinsley)

Circle these can’t-miss football games on your prep sports calendar

I thought it was going to be a relatively easy project.

Pick the five must-see high school football games in the area this year and explain to you why the games should be circled on the calendar.

It was nothing short of arduous. We’re talking an area in the reach of that includes 76 schools.

I did, however, manage to pare the list down to five.

• Ferris at Central Valley , Friday, 7 p.m. Right out of the gate we have our first can’t-miss game. It matches up the teams picked to finish 1-2 in the Greater Spokane League. Central Valley was voted second in the Seattle Times preseason poll and Ferris was fourth.

If this game were in the final week of the regular season, I wouldn’t hesitate to say it would decide the league championship. I won’t go that far now, but the winner definitely gets a jump start on the league and the loser will have little margin of error the rest of the way.

Consider these teams met last year in a season opener. Ferris won and CV had to play without projected starting quarterback Adam Chamberlain, who had to sit out the first five games because of academic ineligibility.

CV ended up finishing third at 7-2 while Ferris was fourth at 6-3. The loss kept the Bears out of the playoffs.

No team was hotter at the end of the regular season than CV, which upset playoff-bound Gonzaga Prep.

Both teams return starting QBs – Chamberlain and Christian Olson. Ferris has moved versatile senior Cole Karstetter to running back while the Bears must find new backs to carry the load.

• Shadle Park vs. Ferris , Sept. 12, Albi, 4:15. This is the first opportunity for the 3A Highlanders to make a statement against a 4A team and announce that they’re in the hunt for the league title.

No team could stop Shadle QB Brett Rypien last year. And if Shadle has added a running game – as the Highlanders claim – then we’re talking about an offense that will be much more difficult to defend than last year.

The big question for Shadle: Will it field a defense this season? The Highlanders ranked seventh in the league last year.

This could be an entertaining shootout.

• Skyline at Coeur d’Alene , Sept. 13, 7. You can be sure that the Vikings have this game highlighted on their schedule.

Not that there’s any reason for revenge. Skyline, behind ultra-talented quarterback Max Browne (now at USC), picked CdA apart 71-20 at the Kibbie Dome last year.

What the Viks want to show is last year was an aberration. Still, they’re going against the two-time Washington 4A state champ which has captured seven state titles overall in the last decade.

The Spartans graduated a talented senior class. The Seattle Times ranked Skyline third in their preseason poll. Kilton Anderson, a senior transfer from Naples, Fla., has been named Browne’s replacement.

• Cheney at East Valley , Oct. 11, 7: Considering there was a four-way tie for first last year in the Great Northern League, it probably seems silly to pick a game here as one of the best of the season.

This game, though, should go far in deciding the league title and the two playoff berths. Cheney is led by experienced QB Andrew Graham and a host of talented players around him. EV has the two best receivers in the league in Gage Burland and J.T. Phelan.

• Coeur d’Alene at Lake City , Oct. 25, 7: The 5A Inland Empire League receives just one playoff berth and this will be the game that decides the champion.

CdA is seeking a third state title in the last four years. LC wants to extend its playoff appearance streak to 17. The Viks will be heavily favored, but anything can happen in a rivalry.