Grace Community and Canton will be at the vanguard of the 2014 football season.
In addition to being one of the first Texas high school games of the year to kick off with a 7 p.m. start, the Cougars and Eagles will be broadcast on TV and streamed on the Internet.
Grace and Canton will be the first East Texas schools to start the 2014 campaign when they meet Thursday at All Saints' Mewbourne Field. The game is the first of three in the Tyler Football Classic, to be followed by All Saints-Timpson on Friday and Bishop Gorman-Eustace on Saturday.
All three games will be broadcast live on KCEB and streamed on ETFi nalScore.com.
The Cougars are coming off a 7-4 season and a fifth straight playoff appearance. With quarterback Chandler Nutt and his top receiver Jonny Spitzer back, along with five other returning starters on offense, Grace will hope to start a progression toward another postseason berth.
The Cougars have won six straight season openers, but the Eagles may represent their toughest first game yet. Canton, a 4-6 playoff team last year, returns eight starters on offense and defense.
"It challenges our program to be at a maturity level for the first game higher than we've been, from a mental toughness standpoint," Grace coach Mike Maddox said.
The Eagles are led by quarterback Chandler Eiland, a 6-1 senior who threw for 1,861 yards and 18 touchdowns last year. He's a dual threat who also ran for 790 yards and 15 scores. Receiver Garrett Denbow will be his biggest target after racking up 608 yards and eight touchdowns last year.
"It will be a big test," Maddox said. "Eiland, he is such an accurate passer and a great runner. It's gonna stretch the limits of our defense no doubt."
The Grace defense welcomes back five starters, including defensive back Layton Sisemore who led the Cougars in interceptions.
"I think they'll be a good opponent," Sisemore said. "But hopefully we can come out and knock a few heads around and just have fun."
NOTES: Tickets for the Tyler Football Classic are $7 for adults and $5 for children under 12. … Streams for games throughout the season can be found at stream.etfinalscore.com. Highlights will be available at highlights.etfinalscore.com. … Grace will have a radio broadcast of the game available online at www.highschoolcube.com/event/grace-cougars-vs-canton-eagles-360591.
Tyler Football Classic Schedule
At Mewbourne Field, All Saints
Thursday, Aug. 28: Grace Community vs. Canton, 7 p.m.
Friday, Aug. 29: All Saints vs. Timpson, 7 p.m.
Saturday, Aug. 30: Bishop Gorman vs. Eustace, 7 p.m.