PUNXSUTAWNEY — The forecast for DuBois, 7 p.m. tonight: Sunny and 78 degrees.
Perfect weather for Punxsy's opening game against the Beavers.
Punxsy head coach Alan Nichol hopes that means a good turnout to support his team on the road.
"It looks like we'll have a nice night, and we're not very far away," he said. "We have won 18 games in a row, and that doesn't happen often. There's no other sport like it where you can get that nice large crowd to come out and support you."
Punxsy opened last season with a 27-7 win over DuBois, but this year's squads are completely different from the ones that faced off last year.
Punxsy has a young team, and DuBois has a new coach, Frank Varischetti, who is bringing a new-look, spread offense — one that brought him a high level of success as head coach at Brockway last season — to DuBois.
"They don't huddle, and they call all the plays at the line," Nichol said. "It takes a lot of preparation on our part to make sure we're lined up and ready."
How does Punxsy plan to counter the spread offense DuBois will run? The answer seems simple: Good tackling.
The spread offense's aim is to create one-on-one match ups all over the field.
"It's going to come down to doing a good job tackling in those one-on-one situations," Nichol said. "We'll be working to combat their offense by executing in that area."
On the other side of the ball, Punxsy's offense hopes to attack the 4-3 defense that DuBois plays by balancing both running and passing plays.
"They're in a pretty basic 4-3, and I've always said that the good news is it's basic, but the bad news is the teams that can play hard without stunting like that can make for a longer night than you anticipated if they execute. We want to be well balanced, throw and run the ball and not let them get into a rhythm."
Adding to the fact that Punxsy was undefeated last year and everyone will be bringing their best to beat them, each team also feels the pressure of winning a season-opening rivalry match, as a win like that can add to the momentum for the rest of the season.
"I think it's nice to have a good rivalry game that first week," Nichol said. "It's a little heightened because the players really want to get after it and get out there and hit somebody else for a change. It'll be tough, though, because they could be one of the best, if not the best, teams on our schedule."
Nichol points to his senior leaders as players who are particularly motivated to win the rivalry.
"Particularly, our senior leaders; They're really looking forward to it," Nichol said. "I believe there are a lot of our young men who know young men from DuBois, making it all the more intense, in that, off the field they're friends or acquaintances.
"As a player playing against DuBois guys when I grew up, we came to respect one another, but when we got on the field, we did everything we could to come out victorious, because we knew we'd see them in different places off the field."
Punxsy's weakness heading into its opening contest, according to Nichol, is still that it is a small squad, but he also says that its hard work and intensity counter that weakness, as well.
He has especially seen the hard work paying off since school started, and his players have had to balance their practices with their school work.
"I believe our seniors have really set the tone, and a lot of times, it can be a difficult day, especially after that first day of school, trying to get practice in, and our players have responded very well," he said. "We're a small squad, and we've put in a lot of reps and physical, difficult practices. These boys are a small, but hardcore, group of young men that are responding very well."
Punxsy is hoping that all of its hard work and preparation pay off when the players take the field tonight in DuBois.
"As a coach and educator, this is what makes it all worthwhile," Nichol said. "We come together and grind it out when things get tough. It's really a blessing to be part of this young group of men and be out there...
"You play like you practice, and you've got to put everything aside except the game. It's not always easy to do that first week, but I'm really hoping for good things for these guys."
Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. tonight at E.J. Mansell Stadium at the DuBois Middle School.