Extensive pre-game festivities will delay the start 15 minutes, adding a little extra tension for visiting Marshall, seeking to erase the memory of last year's 0-10 campaign.
"I told the kids we've got to ignore the rest of the hoopla and still play football," remarked Jon Stockman, who launches his career as head coach of the Owls. "It's still a 100-yard field, still 11 on 11. We've still got the play the game."
Marshall gave a solid preview performance last week during the Oak Grove jamboree, scoring four touchdowns and allowing only one. The most serious blemish were a couple of lost fumbles.
"We put the ball on the ground too much," Stockman said. The emphasis in practice this week was "ball security drills, making sure that's a focus and priority of those backs."
The Hornets will understandably be fired up, but Stockman believes if his team can "weather those first two series, I think we'll be just fine."
Chillicothe is coming off a sub-par 5-6 season of its own, although made the playoffs -- drilled at eventual Class 3 state semifinalist Richmond, 42-8, in the regional -- and return few starting linemen. Yet, under head coach Phil Willard -- who succeeded the legendary Fairchild a dozen years ago -- some things about the Hornets never change.
"They always come off the football real well," Stockman noted. "They're fundamentally sound, as always."
Junior Tyler Clampitt is back after taking over at quarterback in the middle of last season, completing 50 percent of his passes for 418 yards and three touchdowns -- without being intercepted. However, while Chillicothe boasts a fine receiving corps, it's still a run-oriented team -- led by senior D.J. Gannan. He led the club with 130 carries for 823 yards and a team-high 14 touchdowns.
With the Hornets' experience mostly in offensive skill position players and the defensive backfield, Marshall's best chance to win will be controlling the line with a veteran unit.
"We've got to play well up front, and I think our older kids will," Stockman said. "We've got to go up there and get after them."
The Owls enter the game with the kind of confidence not seen among them in some time. A strong showing against a Chillicothe program which has beaten them in the last four season openers will allow them to feed that newfound buoyancy.
"We've got to compete and play with these guys," Stockman declared. "Hopefully at the end we'll have the opportunity to win."