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HIGH SCHOOL PLAYERS SET TO KICK OFF GRID SEASON

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Prep madness or Friday night lights. Call it what you will, but the wait is over for high school football players throughout the state.

The annual campaign, which dates back to 1893, kicks off Thursday evening with Alta visiting Kearns. A day later, the majority of their gridiron counterparts take to the fields.However, few opening contests compare with the 34th annual battle for the "rock" on the east side of the Salt Lake valley. Olympus visits rival Skyline, both teams own top Deseret News classification rankings (5A, 4A respectively), at 7 p.m. in the state's first marquee match-up.

In other top openers Friday:

East vs. Judge: Construction has yet to be completed at East High's new football stadium, so these two neighbors (a short walk between schools) will settle their differences across town at West High.

West Jordan at Jordan: Jaguar coach Rick Bojak has coached at both schools, but his preseason claim to the 5A throne has intensified opponents. This match-up was strong enough without the extra fuel.

Logan at Layton: The visiting Grizzlies, a unanimous coaches pick to win Region 5, faces a challenging preseason opener against the 5A Lancers and quarterback Trevor Black.

Timpview at Orem: East side bragging rights are on the line in Utah County. Both teams are considered among the best in the state.

West at Pleasant Grove: The team that many felt would win the 4A title last year faces the team that actually did.

Mountain Crest at Springville: Two perennial 4A contenders square off in the Art City.

Woods Cross at Davis: After losing to the rival Wildcats for the first time ever last season, the Darts are eager to reclaim past domination--if they can.

Tooele at Fremont: The first-year Silver Wolves begin their football existence at home against the Buffs.

Bonneville at Brighton: No pretenders here. Just a pair of 5A contenders.

Bountiful at Clearfield: Davis County's finest meet as championship traditions collide.

Viewmont at Sky View: The Bobcats return to the field for the first time since last year's hazing incident sidelined the program.

Grantsville at Pine View: The No. 1 -ranked 2A Cowboys visit the 3A Panthers in a classification crossover.

Hunter at Cedar City: Are the Redmen really the top 3A team in the state? The 5A Wolverines may prove otherwise.