The wait is over! The most wonderful time of the year is back with the return of Evansville high school football!

It feels like an eternity since area teams last took the field back in November, and a considerable amount of change has taken place in that time frame as teams deal with the annual turnover in rosters from players graduating to college, or joining the workforce. There's also been an above-average amount of change on the sidelines for teams in the Southern Indiana Athletic Conference has a number schools have new faces wearing the coaching headsets.

Two of those teams dealing with the latter will face each other in the opening game of the 2013 season this Friday night as the Henderson County Colonels make the trip across the twin bridges for their annual non-conference game against the Reitz Panthers. But this time it's different.

The last few times these teams have met, Head Coach Tony Lewis walked the sidelines dressed in Reitz blue and grey. He'll be there this again this year, pacing the sidelines, barking out orders to his players, the difference this time is that he'll do it as the head coach of the Colonels.

His replacement on the Panther's sideline is someone he's familiar with. Andy Hape was a stand-out offensive lineman for Reitz during Lewis' first year as an assistant coach under then-head coach Bob Gaddis. Hape continued his playing days at Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green where he earned all-American status as an offensive lineman. After his playing days were over, he took the offensive coordinator and offensive lineman coaching duties at NCAA Division III Franklin College, roughly 30 minutes south of Indianapolis off I-65.

While they both are aware of the undertones surrounding the game, both are quick to point out that this is not Lewis versus Hape, or vice-versa. This game is between the players on the field Friday night at the Reitz Bowl, and like every other team in the area, both will see a few familiar faces return while expecting former second string players to step up and fill the role of starters.

For Reitz, gone from last year's starting lineup are quarterback Drew Johnston, running back KeAndre Vaughn, and defensive back Mason Schnarr, along with few players on both the offensive and defensive lines. Returning players expected to be key in the Panthers' success this season include quarterback Austin Reagan, a 6'4", 180-pound senior whose name has been mentioned as one to keep an eye on since he was a freshman.

Senior De'Wayne Esters steps into the starting running back slot left vacant by the graduation of Vaughn, a role he's familiar with having been used as frequently as a compliment to Vaughn, or to give him a breather when the then-senior needed a break.

Another returning player worth keeping an eye on is Jordan Summers who evolved into a major player for the Panthers as both a wide receiver and defensive back. Seemingly coming out of nowhere over the course of last season, the 6'3", 181-pound senior made numerous highlight reel-type plays with one-handed catches and awareness of his position on the field when hauling in passes close to the sidelines. Defensively he's a player opposing offenses have to game plan for with his ability to zero in on the ball and either disrupt the play or jump a receiver's route and nab an interception.

Friday night will mark the fifth match up between the two teams since agreeing to the annual contest back in 2009. Reitz has won each game leading up to this week, however Henderson County hasn't made it easy the past two years, forcing overtime in 2011 before losing 21-20, and falling 29-23 in last year after leading the Panthers 23-21 before KeAndre Vaughn took a screen pass from Drew Johnston 66-yards for what would be the game winning touchdown with 7:55 left in the fourth quarter.

While he may not admit it publicly, Tony Lewis would no doubt enjoy starting his tenure as the Colonel's head coach with a win over his former team. On the other side, Andy Hape would no doubt love to show the Reitz faithful they made right choice in naming him head coach.

Hear it all play out on Newstalk 1280 with myself and Jimmie Ford beginning with pregame at 6:30pm and kickoff at 7pm.