As long as Jim Jones has a pulse and a coach's whistle, this day will never grow old. High school football begins tonight, the 19th time Jones will lead Mesa Red Mountain into a new season on a hot summer night.
Nervousness. Adrenaline. Sleepless Thursday nights. Must be a football Friday. "The time has arrived," Jones said. "When that ball gets kicked off, it's in their hands."
Red Mountain and Chandler Hamilton square off at Sun Devil Stadium at 7 p.m. Two hours down I-10, Chandler Basha tussles with Tucson. "It's trying to keep normal on what you're supposed to do," Bears coach Tim McBurney said. "You don't want to let the excitement wear on you (Thursday night) and all day at school."
Eight other East Valley schools begin the journey toward the playoffs, each with wide-eyed wonderment of what the next three months will bring.
"It's a friggin blast," Jones said. "You try and be calm and cool and collected, but you look at their young faces and it makes you feel younger."