Jon Schlemmer likely won't have to do too much homework on the Sterling Golden Warriors' opening-night opponent for the 2013 football season.
The Metamora Redbirds will be invading Roscoe Eades Stadium to begin the season on Friday, Aug. 30. Schlemmer, entering his second season as Sterling's head coach, graduated from Metamora in 2002 and played football there.
Moline was Sterling's scheduled opponent for the opener, but when the six Western Big Six schools formed a football-only conference with four Peoria schools from the Mid-Six Conference beginning in 2013, the Golden Warriors needed to find a new Week 1 opponent.
That's where always-tough Metamora came into the picture.
"We looked other places, but it was really a good fit," Schlemmer said. "It's going to be a tough test, but I really think our kids will be up for the challenge."
The rest of the nonconference schedule will have a road trip to Johnsburg, which went winless a year ago, then two difficult games with a visit from Kaneland and a trip to Rochelle.
Kaneland and Rochelle handled Sterling by a combined score of 89-21 a year ago.
"We didn't play two of our better ballgames," Schlemmer said, "and I know our guys are expecting to play a lot better against two high-quality opponents."
As for the Northern Illinois Big 12 West, the Golden Warriors will be on the road for two of the most difficult games – on Oct. 11 at Geneseo and Oct. 25, to close out the regular season at Ottawa.
There are also home games against LaSalle-Peru and Dixon, plus a road game at Streator.
"I know some people are saying our league is going to be down this year, but I don't see it," Schlemmer said. "Geneseo is going to be better, and so is Dixon. Ottawa lost a lot, but they've got the defensive player of the year back in [defensive tackle] Cyrano Rayfield.
"We've got to be at the top of our game week-in and week-out if we want to compete for a conference championship."
For Dixon, 2013 will mark one last go-round in the NIB-12 West before moving over the Big Northern West next year. The Dukes will have their work cut out for themselves, coming off an 0-9 season in which they were outscored 400-123.
Dixon has a new opponent to begin the season, as Monmouth-Roseville will replace United Township – like Moline, a Western Big Six school locked into a set schedule.
Monmouth-Roseville went 8-3 a year ago and advanced to the second round of the Class 3A playoffs, where it fell to Newman 26-14. The Titans had a host of juniors on that squad, including running back Martel Hunter, who showed what kind of athlete he is by almost single-handedly earning his school second place at the 1A state track and field meet last month.
The three NIB-12 crossover games will be home contests against Rochelle and Yorkville, followed by a road game against Morris.
League play will feature home games against Geneseo and Ottawa, with road contests against LaSalle-Peru, Sterling and Streator.