PARKERSBURG - It's going to be an emotional time come kickoff time at 7 o'clock tonight inside Burke-Tarr Stadium as Carson-Newman tries to give head coach Ken Sparks career victory No. 300.
Trying to keep that monumental total at 299 will be second-year Glenville State College head coach David Hutchison and his Pioneers, who left Wednesday to head to Tennessee.
"We know he's going through some health problems," Hutchison said of Sparks being diagnosed with prostate cancer last month.
"We wish him the best of health. We're not giving this one to him. We're going to go fight for it."
Last year, the G-men got off to a quick 10-0 start, but things went pretty much in favor of the Eagles after that as C-N left Morris Stadium with a 45-20 triumph.
"We understand offensively we can't turn the ball over four times like we did last year and have a bunch of penalties," Hutchison admitted.
"The final score looked one way, but we finished that game feeling we let one slip away because of our own mistakes."
Both teams will be looking to have a better season in the turnover department. Carson-Newman was a not so good tied for 119th in Division II in turnover margin. The Pioneers weren't much better with a final ranking of 101st.
A slew of new faces dot the two-deep depth charts for both programs, but one player the Pioneers will rely on is redshirt freshman running back Rahmann Lee.
"He's special, really, really special," Hutchison noted. "He's got unbelievable balance and vision and for 175 pounds soaking wet he's got good power."
Of course, while the Pioneers like to run the spread formation triggered by returning signal-caller Darold Hughes, the Eagles prefer to try and run the ball down the throat of their opponents.
"Most of their offensive line is back and we know they are going to line up and try to run the football. They were fifth in the country (277.36 ypg) last year," Hutchison said.
"We're very excited to get the opportunity to play and finally hit somebody else. We understand we are going to face a very tough team. A team that we are going to have to play well."
Knowing exactly what his team is up against, which is a vaunted option running offense, it's obvious what needs to happen if the G-men are to start the campaign 1-0.
"We are hoping that we can control the lines of scrimmage and try to get our playmakers to make plays and play sound football," added the coach, who noted true freshman Jake Harper out of Greenbrier East High School will start at tight end.
"Jake's had an unbelievable camp and we got some expectations for him to make some plays for us. I can't tell you the last time we had a true freshman start on opening day. Last year, we only had one real freshman play the whole season and this kid is getting to start."