It is getting close.

In about one month from now, Friday Night Lights makes its annual return to our schedule, signaling the unofficial beginning of fall.

As always, there are several intriguing matchups that will have the savviest of high school football connoisseurs looking to the week’s end on a weekly basis.

Here are my top 12 battles — ranked from worst to best — that I think you’ll want to see in person.

To whet your appetite, each game will include a quick hitter, detailing what each matchup brings to the table.

Each of the nine schools in the Progress coverage area has at least one game on the list.

No. 12 | Chelsea vs. Ketchum

When: Week 1 | Sept. 6

This isn’t a battle of the titans by any means.

There was one win between these teams last season, and that was Ketchum’s 12-8 win over Chelsea.

Expectations are low for both in 2019, but if the Dragons win only one game, don’t be surprised if it comes against the Warriors.

If that is indeed the case, this might be fun to attend for those who don’t have any fan loyalties to another Rogers County team.

Witnessing the end of a 12-game losing streak would be something to behold, especially so early in the season.

No. 11 | Sequoyah at Miami

When: Week Zero | Aug. 30

These teams went a combined 3-17 last season, but bear with me.

Sequoyah failed to pick up a win in 2018, but with most of its starters returning, it can only get better.

Furthermore, last year’s disaster was a rare one for the Eagles. Miami, on the other hand, has finished below .500 in each of its past 10 seasons.

Expect a much-improved Sequoyah squad this time around, and don’t be surprised if the Eagles run away with this one.

No. 10 | Foyil at Claremore Christian

When: Week Zero | Aug. 30

Foyil cruised to a 50-6 win over Claremore Christian last season, but this game continually catches my eye when looking over schedules.

The Panthers experienced a resurgence in 2018, pounding opponents to a similar tune all year, but the Warriors recovered and went on to win the Class 2A HCAA state title.

VYPE predicts a major drop-off for Foyil in 2019 despite eight wins last season, so this might be Claremore Christian’s chance to make a statement against a big bad OSSAA school.

No. 9 | Foyil vs. Canadian

When: Week 1 | Sept. 6

Canadian was the only Class B team to give Foyil fits last season before the Panthers ran into powerhouse Regent Prep in the regular-season finale and Yale in the playoffs.

The Cougars handed Foyil a 28-8 opening-week defeat, which seemingly sparked the Panthers’ ensuing eight-game winning streak.

With the experts doubting Foyil, it will be interesting to see if it can open the season with a huge vengeful victory.

No. 8 | Catoosa at Oologah

When: Week 10 | Nov. 8

Oologah dominated this series for the better part of the decade, but Catoosa ended a six-game losing streak to the Mustangs in convincing fashion, 30-12, last season.

Oologah had a down year compared to previous seasons, but if it can get back to form and the Indians remain relevant in District 4A-3, we might have a classic on our hands at the end of the regular season.

 

No. 7 | Claremore Christian at Bluejacket

When: Week 1 | Sept. 6

Although Sept. 6 is technically Week 1 for the rest of Rogers County, this is Claremore Christian’s third game on the schedule.

What is intriguing about the Warriors’ matchup with Bluejacket is the sheer number of points the teams tallied last season.

They combined for 112 points, with the Chieftains claiming an exhilarating 58-54 win.

If they plan on lighting up the scoreboard like this again, this is one Big 12-esque contest you don’t want to miss.

No. 6 | Claremore at Collinsville

When: Week 4 | Sept. 27

Claremore returns a lot of weapons from last year’s quarterfinals squad, but this game will be the ultimate measuring stick for the Zebras.

The Cardinals humiliated Claremore, 31-0, at Lantow Field in 2018, and they are expected to be a major player in Class 5A once again despite losing some pieces.

Sallee Field in Collinsville is just a short drive from Claremore, so if anyone is curious as to the validity of the Zebras’ contendership, answers will be provided on Sept. 27.

No. 5 | Verdigris at Sperry

When: Week 1 | Sept. 6

Shockingly, Sperry was left out of the VYPE Class 2A preseason rankings despite going 14-1 and winning the title in 2018.

Regardless, the Pirates shouldn’t be taken lightly.

Last season, Sperry defeated Verdigris, 37-14, but the Cardinals are pegged as a top eight team in Class 3A this season.

This is the perfect opportunity for Verdigris to get a statement win under its belt.

No. 4 | Verdigris vs. Inola

When: Week 7 | Oct. 17

Electricity is already in the air for this one.

After suffering a pair of blowout losses to Inola in 2016 and 2017, Verdigris finally gained the upperhand in a 14-7 overtime classic last season.

With that in mind, there is no telling what to expect this time around.

Both teams are anticipating improvements in the win column, so this could wind up being another dogfight between the district rivals.

No. 3 | Inola vs. Jay

When: Week 8 | Oct. 25

This matchup could very well decide the final playoff spot for District 3A-4.

Jay holds the advantage offensively with eight returning starters, but Inola returns six defensive starters.

The Bulldogs also have six experienced players coming back on defense, which could disrupt a Longhorns offense that replaces most of its assets. Something has to give.

Inola won last year’s meeting, 23-21.

With Vinita lurking, the loser of this matchup could be left on the outside looking in at the postseason.

No. 2 | Claremore at Bartlesville

When: Week 1 | Sept. 6

About half of the matchups mentioned take place in Week 1, but this is the last and most intriguing.

Claremore has never beaten Bartlesville, but 2019 appears to be its best chance yet.

Why? Simply because the Zebras have the players to get it done.

Meanwhile, the Bruins must find pieces to put around the returning quarterback and second-string-now-starter running back.

A win here would be a major step in the right direction for the Zebras, who have big expectations this season.

No. 1 | Oologah at Wagoner

When: Week 7 | Oct. 17

Two tradition-rich rivals meeting for the 13th time since 2010, what more could you ask for?

Oologah and Wagoner are no strangers to each other, even meeting in the state championship game three-straight years from 2014-2016.

The Bulldogs have owned the series for nearly the entirety of its run, but the Mustangs put a dent in the powerhouse’s armor last season with a shocking 18-15 win in overtime.

Oologah will be even better this year after a 5-6 2018 campaign, and Wagoner is reloading just as it has for a majority of the decade.

This is must-see football.