High school football teams have had three weeks of practice, a scrimmage and an exhibition game to get ready for tonight’s openers. Some teams are feeling better about their chances than others, but even for the top teams, there’s the element of the unknown heading into the first game.

Did we work on our kick and punt coverage enough? How will our offense perform against their defense? How will we handle adversity? All of those things are on coaches’ minds.

Toss in opening-game nerves and tonight becomes a rush of emotions.

“The first game is always so tough,” said Windham Coach Matt Perkins. “The starters haven’t played for a four full quarters yet. There are so many unknowns heading into the first game. The opening game is such a showcase. From a scouting standpoint, you don’t know how much an opponent hid for the exhibition game or what they might unveil in this game. It’s really challenging.”

The first scrimmage is the initial test against an opponent, The exhibition game gives coaches a better idea of what their team will be like, but until the regular season begins and the games count, they don’t really know.

For Windham and Scarborough, who square off tonight at Scarborough, the opener pits potential contenders. This is the first regular-season game between the schools since 2002, when they were in Class B. The Red Storm won the Class B state title that year, which was Perkins’ first with the Eagles.

After that, both programs moved to Class A because of enrollment. Windham fared better; it was put in Eastern Class A at first because of numbers and made the playoffs before returning to Western Maine.

Windham won the Class A title in 2009. After a 4-5 record last season and a quarterfinal playoff loss, the Eagles are looking to rebound.

Scarborough ended its struggles in Class A last season with an 8-2 record and a strong playoff showing. The Red Storm are bringing a lot of expectations into the season.

“You’ve got some really interesting matchups on both sides of the ball,” said Perkins of the game. “It’s going to come down to the fourth quarter.”

BESIDES THE WINDHAM at Scarborough game, other top Week 1 matchups have Bangor at Brunswick, Bonny Eagle at Thornton Academy and South Portland at Cheverus in Class A. The Bonny Eagle-Thornton and South Portland-Cheverus games will be Saturday.

Tonight in Western Class B, Cape Elizabeth plays at Wells, Marshwood at York, Westbrook at Mountain Valley and Spruce Mountain at Greely.

Wells is a favorite in Class B. Marshwood and York are renewing a rivalry that ended after the 1988 season, when Marshwood moved to Class A and immediately won the state title. Westbrook, playing in Class B for the first time since the early 1960s, could have its hands full against the defending state champs.

Spruce Mountain is a new team, resulting from the merger of Livermore Falls and Jay. Yarmouth, the defending Class C state champion, opens tonight at Old Orchard Beach.

JON GALLANT, the new Deering coach, has a new starting quarterback in senior Matt Flaherty, who waited his turn to start after backing up an All-State player in Jamie Ross. Ross graduated last spring after leading the Rams to an 8-3 record and the Western Maine final. In an exhibition-game victory against Sanford a week ago, Flaherty showed a good arm.

“I think Matt did well,” said Gallant. “He has a great command of the offense.”

Having been an assistant to Greg Stilphen for several years, Gallant is well-acquainted with the players.

The Rams have another speedy team with several players capable of getting loose.

“We have a lot of skill kids,” said Gallant.

One of Flaherty’s favorite targets — who was also a favorite for Ross — is wideout Renaldo Lowry. Deering also has some veterans in the line.

Gallant was generally pleased with the effort against Sanford.

“We left some scores out there and dropped some balls we should have caught,” he said.

The Rams will be home against Noble at 7 tonight.

PORTLAND COACH Mike Bailey says his team is coming into tonight’s game at Massabesic in a good frame of mind.

“I’m pleased with where we’re at,” said Bailey. “We’ve made some position moves, which should help, and the players gained some maturity in preseason. We had some nice drives against Scarborough in the exhibition game and just couldn’t put some into the end zone.”

Bailey said top lineman Nate Porter is coming off a strong preseason along with Seamus Kilbride at defensive back, Nick Volger at running back, and Christian Doughty at guard and defensive tackle.

Massabesic could be without running back Casey Nava, who suffered a knee strain a week and a half ago. Nava has made good progress but it could be another week before he plays.

The teams will be meeting for the first time since 2002.

Staff Writer Tom Chard can be contacted at 791-6419 or at:

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