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Strong slate of football tonight

After an eventful night of football Thursday, Friday night lights in Lincoln and Copiah counties kicks off with five home games in the area.

The strong slate of games features Brookhaven hosting Pearl, the preseason No. 1 team in the state, and two new head coaches making their team debuts with West Lincoln and Loyd Star.

West Lincoln is home against Mount Olive and Loyd Star plays host to Sacred Heart.

It should be an eventful evening of games. Here’s what to look out for.

How will BHS handle the pressure?

A lot of preseason hype was given to the Brookhaven Panthers and deservingly so. Returning an experienced team on both sides of the ball, including multiple players with Division I offers can do that.

That pressure has built up to an opening night clash with preseason No. 1 Pearl.

How will head coach Tommy Clopton and the team handle the expectations and how will the players respond against a loaded Pirates team?

The team will be playing with heavy hearts after the tragic death of former teammate Jordan Blackwell. The players will give it all for number 18 and will do anything to honor his legacy.

It’s no coincidence that the game will be played on Aug. 18.

The Panthers have a tall task trying to stop Pearl, a team that returns their starting quarterback, leading rusher and leading receiver from a year ago.

How will the new head coaches do?

BJ Smithhart of West Lincoln and Brian Ford of Loyd Star knew the task at hand when taking their new jobs.

Both West Lincoln and Loyd Star are in need of a change in direction. Smithhart and Ford bring winning pedigrees to Lincoln County and that rebuilding process starts tonight.

Loyd Star will look like a complete new team after losing 11 seniors from last season, including captains Parker Flowers and Bradyn Brister. The team will rely heavily on senior running back Patrick Price to be the workhorse on offense.

West Lincoln returns senior captain and wide receiver Chase Owen. Owen saw some time at quarterback last week in their scrimmage against Wesson so the senior could take snaps at a new position. Led by Owen and seniors Gabe Nations, Brandon Smith and Le’darrius Jones, the Bears have the talent to make a run in Smithhart’s first season.

Both schools face teams tonight that they lost to last season, so Friday night should be interesting debuts for both Smithhart and Ford.

How will new athletes play for Brookhaven Academy?

Head coach Ron Rushing made it his goal to recruit new players to the football team from different sports.

He reached that goal and more with 35 players listed on the opening night roster.

Players from the baseball and basketball teams have joined the football program and have bought into the vision that Rushing is trying to sell to his team.

Seniors Dillon Burt, Ben Powe and junior Cade Brown are the returning players that will be looked on to lead a new roster out on the field in 2017.

How will the new players adjust to the live game action they’ll see Friday night?

The new-look Cougars can get some early momentum with an opening victory against Cathedral.

New offense for Wesson

Senior Dale Thigpen will make the transition from running back to quarterback and provides a new dimension on offense with his running ability.

The Wesson Cobras featured that offense last week in their scrimmage win over West Lincoln and Thigpen looked comfortable in his new position despite inclement weather.

How will the senior look throwing the football against Crystal Springs when it matters most under the lights? It’ll be interesting to see the talented Thigpen go to work under center.