By Ryan Atkinson
Globe Sports Writer
JOPLIN, Mo. — Prep football kicks off (already??) tonight in Missouri.
'Like' the Globe's facebook page for updates throughout the night. Or follow me on twitter for live updates from Joplin High games throughout the season.
In the meantime, here are a few things to watch for during tonight's action.
Joplin's ground game: A football team needing to establish a rushing attack in order to open up its passing game is nothing new. But that may be Joplin's biggest key when it takes on Glendale tonight. The Falcons lost some talent up front, but they return a lot of size on the defensive line. Can Joplin's veteran O-line make room for the speedy Chris Payton-Barba to run free? Joplin QB Gabe Sachetta has been praised by coach Chris Shields for his work in the offseason. If Joplin can get the Falcons to press the line, Sachetta may be able to do some damage in the air.
Is Webb City going to be as good as we think they can be?: The Cardinals, according to long-time Globe sports writer Anvil Welch, looked "scary" in their jamboree matchup with Joplin, scoring four times relatively easily. They'll welcome a new starting quarterback, but let's be honest here: Webb City never has problems replacing key players and the fact that the new QB is John Roderique -- son of the John Roderique -- makes it even more of a sure bet that the Cards will pick up where they left off.
Can McAuley get its season off on the right foot?: The Warriors welcome back an old coach and a return to Class 1 play. Brenden Gubera, who led the Warriors in 2007 and 2008 and was the offensive coordinator the last two seasons, is back at head coach. And McAuley is back in Class 1, leaving their Class 2 district that included state champ Lamar behind. Throw in fourth-year starter Mitch Wear at quarterback and things are looking up for the Warriors, who finished 2011 at 3-7. A good start tonight against Sarcoxie could go a long way for McAuley.