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Steve Christilaw: Friday night football a welcome sight

September has to be the coolest month of the year.

The heat of August gives way to days filled with comfort. You can spend the day at the lake, but come evening you’re trying to remember where you left that sweater you took off way back in May.

September is the month where the baseball pennant races get memorable (hang in there, M’s), and the NFL kicks off. College football gets real and tailgating gets serious.

It’s also the month where that great American institution returns: Friday night high school football.

It starts as it always does, with a clean slate for every school, and they all know that to make it to December, when they hand out the championship trophies, will take hard work, a lucky bounce here and there, and a little bit of magic.

The Greater Spokane League handed out a present for football fans when it was decided the league would officially split into two divisions: Class 4A and Class 3A. That shift allows teams to schedule non-league games instead of opening the season with league opponents.

That’s a treat.

Central Valley opens with an exceptional matchup. Friday night the Bears travel to Coeur d’Alene to face the Vikings in a playoff-caliber contest between two perennial powers.

Coeur d’Alene has won three of the past four Idaho Class 5A state championships, making them one tough opponent. CV, meanwhile, has an abundance of skill players and has focused on putting together a cohesive offensive and defensive line. This game will be a stern test for both.

University moves back to Class 4A this season and the Titans open at home tomorrow against Sandpoint, which lost its season opener last week at home to Post Falls, 42-39.

The Titans are young, and opening against an opponent with a game under its belt is a little like trying to play charades with both hands tied behind your back.

The U-Hi defense will have its hands full trying to stop Sandpoint, which rolled up almost 500 yards of offense in its opener. Returning All-Inland Empire League quarterback Nate Loutzenhiser threw for 258 yards, including touchdown passes of 65 and 77 yards, and Kyle Perry ran for 148 yards and three touchdowns and returned a kickoff 91 yards for a fourth score.

West Valley has a similar task when the Eagles travel to Rathdrum to face Lakeland, the defending Inland Empire League 4A champion.

The Eagles lost just one starter on each side of the ball, and it was the same player both ways. Two to watch: All-GNL wide receiver Tevin Duke and all-league running back/defensive lineman Jace Malek – a 240-pound battering ram.

The Hawks knocked off Lewiston on the road in their opener, 24-10. Quarterback Tyrel Derrick rushed for three touchdowns, including a pair in the fourth quarter, as Lakeland roared back from a 10-9 deficit in the final quarter.

East Valley opens at home against former Great Northern League opponent Deer Park, which drops down to join the Class 1A Northeast League to challenge defending state champion Freeman.

The Knights are led by senior Connor Ramm, the first-team All-GNL quarterback, and are preparing for a week-in, week-out slugfest for the league title with West Valley, Cheney and Pullman.

Freeman isn’t just a preseason favorite to win a second straight state title, it’s nationally ranked among schools with 1,000 or fewer students – coming in at No. 25 in the CBS MaxPreps poll.

The Scotties open with St. Maries at home this week, but travel to Pullman to face the Greyhounds next week in a showdown that will be a good indicator of just how good the team is. A year ago Freeman spanked visiting Pullman en route to an undefeated season.