BY ED HEDES

Aahhh, football season.

It's time to start thinking about X's and O's, first downs, touchdowns and french fries and not necessarily in that order.

High School football kicks off in Pennsylvania tonight and we're lucky to have eight local games on the card to get things started.

Lehighton at Marian and Jim Thorpe at Tamaqua are two games that feature four of those teams.

It's hard to believe that 20 years ago the Mountain Valley Conference was formed. Now, with Lehighton heading to the Anthracite and Schuylkill Leagues and the rest of the MVC schools eyeing a merger with the Lehigh Valley Conference, it'll be time to say goodbye to the MVC just as we said to the Centennial League back in the day.

We have added three new prognosticators to our list. Rich Strack, Patrick Matsinko and Justin Carlucci are names that you have seen or will see down the road. It will be interesting to see how the newcomers and the returning grid pick participants challenge defending champ Jason Boris.

So without further adieu, let's get the 2013 season started:

JIM THORPE AT TAMAQUA - The Raiders want nothing more than to feed off their undefeated regular season last year and take it a step further to the District 11 AA championship. Sam Bonner's 11 has some early injuries, but when they meet the Olympians, it's always a battle...Tamaqua, 36-12.

LEHIGHTON AT MARIAN - The Colts are looking to make it back to the days when the playoffs were almost a lock. The Indians begin their second year under head coach Tom McCarroll and look for improvement...Marian, 21-7.

PANTHER VALLEY AT MAHANOY AREA - The Panthers hope to start off on the right foot just like they did last year. The Golden Bears are looking to do munch better than they did last season...Panther Valley, 20-12.

PLEASANT VALLEY AT NAZARETH - A lot of changes on the Blue Eagles coaching staff, but we still look for a lot of points to be scored in this one...Nazareth, 28-22.

PALISADES AT NORTHWESTERN - Early reports out of Tiger Country are that they'll be much better than last year. The Pirates return a lot so this should be a good one...Palisades, 28-14.

NORTHERN LEHIGH AT SOUTHERN LEHIGH - Bulldogs have been hit with a couple of early injuries and Spartans have plenty of their high powered offense back. Nolehi surprised Solehi last year and you never count out a Joe Tout coached team...Southern Lehigh, 21-13.

PALMERTON AT NOTRE DAME - Crusaders have quite a bit of their offense back, while Bombers have good skilled people, but line needs time to mature...Notre Dame, 21-10.

NORTH SCHUYLKILL AT SHENANDOAH VALLEY - Wally Hall takes over as head coach of the Spartans, but it's the same old result...North Schuylkill, 28-17.

POCONO MOUNTAIN EAST AT DIERUFF - The Huskies must be shaking a bit since they'll wind up heading back to the LVC next year. The Cardinals take advantage...Pocono Mountain East, 35-6.

BETHLEHEM CATHOLIC AT POCONO MOUNTAIN WEST - The Panthers lost some of their offense and the Golden Hawks hope to put to rest what was an awful 2012 season...Bethlehem Catholic, 19-14.

EAST STROUDSBURG SOUTH AT FREEDOM - A toss-up here since both teams are supposed to have decent seasons...Freedom, 28-20.

NORTHAMPTON AT STROUDSBURG - New coach for the Mountaineers, but they'll still win this one...Stroudsburg, 24-7.

SALISBURY AT BANGOR - Slaters have an untested quarterback and a new coach. It doesn't matter...Bangor, 35-7.

SAUCON VALLEY AT PEN ARGYL - Green Knights have a line back that I might even be able to run behind ...Pen Argyl, 28-17.

SCHUYLKILL HAVEN AT WYOMISSING - Hurricanes are picked to be the "Top Dog" in the Anthracite League, but they travel to a team coming off a great state playoff run...Wyomissing, 35-0.