Once again, Marietta High's football team will be playing a difficult, challenging schedule. So, fasten your seatbelt, because the journey could get a little bumpy from late August to late October - and hopefully beyond.
Know, though, that the Tigers capped 2008 on a high note with two straight Southeastern Ohio Athletic League wins against Porthsmouth and Gallia Academy, respectively.
So, they'll naturally be looking for some carryover when they play their season and home opener against Morgan at Don Drumm Stadium at 7:30 p.m. Friday.
Marietta's opponents were a combined 56-44 (.560 winning percentage) in 2008. This year, they're 51-49 (.510 winning percentage).
Is that parity for you or what? Three of the orange and black foes made the 2008 playoffs last season - New Philadelphia, Parkersburg South and Logan. All are back, and will be hosting MHS this upcoming fall.
There are really no "cream puffs" on the 2009 Marietta slate. Four of the schools had losing records on the gridiron in 2008 - Morgan (1-9), Warren (4-6), Parkersburg High (4-6), and Portsmouth (1-9). But if you're thinking for a moment that any of these teams is a gimme this fall, think again.
What makes this year's schedule perhaps tougher is that Marietta is looking at six consecutive road games. The Tigers will definitely have to be road warriors - even at Vincent.
Good football teams, though, win no matter where the venue is.
On the flipside, an under-achieving football team can lose even if it has 10 home games.
Fortunately, three of Marietta's away games are relatively close and within driving distance. Parkersburg High and Parkersburg South are just across the Ohio River in Wood County, W.Va., and Warren of course is in Washington County.
The other three are out there - New Philadelphia, Jackson and Logan. But you can be sure that's not going to stop the Tiger faithful from making the trek there.
Marietta will be at home for its last three regular-season games of the campaign - against Zanesville, Portsmouth and Gallia Academy, respectively. The Zanesville contest will be a non-conference tilt this season.
Needless to say, it's really difficult for any high school football team anywhere in the country to post an undefeated regular season. It's done of course all the time, but...looking at Marietta's schedule, there's really no team on it that the Tigers shouldn't be able to beat - and that includes perennial SEOAL powerhouse Logan, which was 10-0 in regular-season play in 2008.
Now, that's not to say that the Tigers will have an unblemished regular-season record in 2009.
But MHS should be able to enjoy a .500-plus season, and even advance to the Ohio playoffs for the second times in its history, if "things" fall into place. Thing is, if "things" don't work out, the Tigers could just as easily go the other way.
Let's briefly take a look at Marietta's schedule, starting with Morgan. The Tigers need to get off to a good start, and they know it. In some ways, it sets the tone for the rest of the season.
A win, ugly or not, and the confidence level goes up.
Last year, MHS was blown out at Hilliard Darby in Andy Schob's varsity head coaching debut.
It took the Tigers two more games (and losses) to get back on track and on the "W" side of the ledger.
No offense to Hilliard Darby, but Morgan is a lot, lot closer.
Good to see Morgan back on the Tigers' schedule.
The Raiders struggled in 2008, but should be much improved, and Marietta won't be able to take them lightly at all. In past year's games, the McConnelsville-based school has been a worthy Tiger opponent and very competitive. Friday night's game should be no different.
Marietta will be favored, but it's going to have to earn the victory - and it knows it.
Then, it's pack your bags, and let's hit the road.
Another school back on the MHS schedule is PHS. It's about time this 97-year-old rivalry has been renewed.
The Bernie Buttrey-coached Big Reds had a below .500 record last year, which is not the norm for them. The red and white are usually battling for a Class AAA championship in West Virginia.
PHS owns the series advantage by a considerable margin against Marietta, and will be difficult to beat at Stadium Field. The Tigers will definitely need to be at the top of their game for this one.
New Philadelphia, a playoff-bound team last season, figures to be just as good in 2009.
Marietta beat Warren last year - but just barely. It probably was a game that could've gone either way.
When these two Washington County rivals get together on the gridiron, anything can and usually does happen.
Look for another nail-biter.
It's a home game for the Warriors, but there should be a lot of orange and black visible in the visitor's bleachers.
This will be the two school's SEOAL opener.
Does MHS have Parkersburg South's number? The Tigers have defeated the Jon Bolen-led Patriots two straight years - and winning again at the Erickson All-Sports Facility is not an easy chore.
South, Class AAA playoff-bound in 2008, is expected to be primed and pumped - but then again so will Marietta.
Jackson is a long ways away, and Marietta will be looking to return the favor and avenge last season's setback to the Ironmen.
Logan. The Chieftains always seem to be the team to beat in the SEOAL. This season will probably be no different. If the law of averages mean anything then Marietta is due.
Ah, there's no place like Don Drumm Stadium, and that's where the Tigers will be finishing out the 2009 season.
Marietta gave Zanesville a battle but lost in 2008. The Blue Devils, who are no longer a member of the SEOAL, always seem to be a handful on the gridiron - home or away.
Even so, the Tigers would like nothing better than to make Zanesville's trip to Marietta a long one in 2009.
And, finally, there's Portsmouth and Gallia Academy, two schools that Marietta beat last season - on the road. Now, the Tigers will be hosting the Trojans and Blue Devils, and hoping history repeats itself.
So, there you have it - Marietta High's 2009 slate.
It's always difficult for anybody to make predictions on games, let alone seasons.
But the Tigers do have the coaching and the personnel to enjoy a successful 2009 campaign on the gridiron.
How that will translate into wins and losses...well, your educated guess is as good as mine.
Got to have a positive outlook on it, though. No matter what. Right now, let's just sit back and enjoy.
Ron Johnston is the Marietta Times sports editor, and can be reached at 376-5441, or at email@example.com