For the second straight season, Tuscaloosa County’s season opener will feature one of the area’s biggest annual games.

In a matchup featuring two of the three largest schools in the area, the Wildcats, the area’s lone 7A school, will play at Northridge, a 6A school, tonight at 7.

“It’s just good to play that local rivalry,” said Tuscaloosa County coach Lee Gibson, who enters his seventh year at the helm. “We’ve always played them. They used to be in our region until we moved up (to 7A), so it’s nice for us to be able to keep at in the game because they’re right across town.”

Tuscaloosa County has played Northridge every year since 2004 -- the Jaguars’ second year of existence as a school -- posting an all-time record of 10-1 against the neighboring school. Across all 11 meetings, the Wildcats have outscored the Jaguars 379-144.

In last season’s meeting, Tuscaloosa County beat the Jaguars, 34-12, at home.

Northridge won 35-21 at home in 2011 for its lone victory in the series.

Still, despite the series record, the Jaguars should provide an early-season test for a Wildcats team returning 10 starters from last season’s team.

“You pretty much look at our whole schedule, it’s a challenge week in and week out,” Gibson said. “Our region is probably the toughest in the state. Then you throw in Northridge, Hillcrest. As far as non-region games, that’s pretty tough.”

In its season opener last Friday, Northridge (1-0) took down Etowah, one of the state’s top 5A schools, 13-6, in Attalla. The Jaguars overcome a 6-0 first-quarter deficit in the win.

Last season, Northridge finished 6-5, losing in the first round of the playoffs at Spanish Fort, who reached the state semifinals.

Tuscaloosa County, in 7A football’s inaugural season of existence last year, went 6-6 (4-3 Class 7A, Region 3), finishing third behind eventual state champion Hoover and Oak Mountain. The Wildcats beat Bob Jones, 28-21, on the road in the first round of the playoffs.

Friday’s matchup will feature a pair of new quarterbacks for the Wildcats, with both junior Sam Cooper and sophomore JD Thomas expected to see the field at the position. Gibson said each quarterback brings “different things to the table” when their number is called.

Seth Franks, last season’s starter, is now a preferred walk-on quarterback at Alabama.

Follow Tuscaloosa County High School football throughout the season by listening live on Tide 99.1 FM and every Friday night. Justin Baker and coach Greer Williams will have the call tonight live from Northridge, with coverage beginning at 6:45 p.m.

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