BELLEVILLE — Going against a new opponent that they know little about has added to the challenge of opening night for the Belleville East Lancers.
"Week 1 is pretty hard to prepare for anyway because things change from year to year without being an opponent that we have never played before, never seen,'' East coach Tim Funk said of Friday's game against the Hubbard Greyhounds from the Chicago Public League. We do have film on them from last year, but you can't necessarily take a lot out of that.''
The Greyhounds went 2-6 last season, snapping a 17-year streak of qualifying for the playoffs under coach Elton Harris.
"They didn't have very many seniors, so they have a lot of kids back,'' Funk said. "They didn't make the playoffs last year, so they were a little down, but normally they are a pretty good team. Other than that, you're guess is as good as mine.''
Friday's game: Chicago Hubbard at Belleville East, 7 p.m.
East Coach Funk: "In high school football or athletics in general, mistakes are going to happen. You try to limit them and you try to stress that the little things are important. I hate to always revert back to our 2010 team that was obviously a good team and went to the semifinals, but the first three games of that year we didn't have one turnover. If you don't have any turnovers, limit your mistakes and play good defense and special teams, then you have a pretty good chance of winning.
"I think they are kind of a cross between East St. Louis and Cahokia. That's who I compare them to. That's the kind of speed they have. If you are not in the right spot, they make you pay.''
East's game plan: Controlling the ball on offense and avoiding the big play on defense.
Hubbard's game plan: Using its speed to break free for big gains.
Key players: Belleville East -- OL-DL Jeff Brown (6-2, 323), OL-DL Nathan Sylvester (6-2. 296) and WR Parker Hendricks. Hubbard -- QB Pontraille Gray, RB Brandon Pettis, WR Justin Applewhite.
Notes: The Lancers will be without senior running back Brandon Mason, who has a broken leg. ... Hubbard advanced to the semifinals of the Class 5A playoffs in 2000 and the semifinals of the Class 6A playoffs in 2005. ... Coach Harris' career record is 166-60. ... Hubbard freshman running back Joshua Land (5-6, 152) was clocked at 4.38 seconds in the 40-yard dash at Schumann's National Underclassman Combine this summer.
Fun fact: Under Funk, the Lancers are 8-2 in season openers, including six straight wins.
Contact reporter Steve Korte at firstname.lastname@example.org or 239-2522.