If you're a fan of high school football, today will certainly serve as a preview of what's coming in just a few weeks.
When the top graduated seniors from Ohio take on their counterparts from West Virginia in the Ohio Valley Athletic Conference Rudy Mumley All-Star Football Game, it will start the clock ticking toward the last week in August and the opening of the 2014 high school football season.
There will be bragging rights on the line in Wheeling Island Stadium when the 69th-annual contest gets under way at 7:15 p.m. Ohio holds a 27-14-1 edge since the OVAC took over sponsorship of the game in 1972, and a 42-25-1 lead overall in the series, which dates back to 1940.
For some of the 66 players scheduled to dress tonight, the game will represent a final tuneup before they head to college training camps during the next few weeks. For others, it will be the last time they ever step onto a football field.
While the game itself is important, the friendships that have been made since training camp opened last Sunday at Bethany College will last long into the future. Some of the experiences surrounding the game will no doubt be recalled by the 1964 all-stars, who will be honored as part of tonight's festivities.
Family tradition also will be on display. For example, Buckeye Local graduate Devan Pyciak is following in the footsteps of his brother, Rylan, who played in the 2010 game, as is Weir High graduate John Frankovitch, whose brother, Taylor, played in 2003. The father of Brooke graduate Todd Clark, Todd Clark Sr., played in the 1994 game.
Joining the football players as part of the event will be 136 members of the McDonald's OVAC All-Star Band, 24 Queen of Queen candidates and 20 cheerleaders. In fact, 43 of the 50 schools in the conference will be represented.
This week has been about more than football. Activities included the annual Osiris Shrine film and pizza night, the George Strager Evening with the Stars, the Queen of Queens contest and a pep rally.
Keep in mind that the event is about raising money for charity, and it's a success on that level as well. The OVAC reports that it has donated more than $888,600 to charitable organizations and scholarship funds during the last 42 years.
Tonight's game means that the start of the 2014 season is about one month away. On Aug. 28 Steubenville Big Red will take on Cleveland John F. Kennedy in Harding Stadium while Harrison Central will meet Buckeye Trail.
High school football returns tonight - we hope you will sit back and enjoy.