---- — In Central Pennsylvania for many people there are really only two seasons: Football season and the rest of the year.
Check the calendar. It all starts tonight.
Saturday, Penn State returns to the field for the first time under new Coach Bill O'Brien who is trying to rebuild a program while shackled by onerous NCAA sanctions stemming from the child sex abuse cover-up scandal under O'Brien's iconic predecessor Joe Paterno.
The initial emotional surge may very well be followed by weekly mediocrity. At best, long-time fans will find themselves in the largely unfamiliar role of rooting for the underdog in most contests. At worst, the next few seasons will test the enthusiasm and devotion of fans.
Luckily, there are Friday nights.
The scholastic football season will offer more than enough drama, augmented early on by notable coaching changes. Todd Tilford, who coached the Lewisburg Green Dragons to a resurgence, accepted a position at his alma mater, Shikellamy High School.
Lewisburg enters the season with former Danville Coach Jeremy Winn at the helm. Rodney Klock, who was the Line Mountain quarterback just seven years ago, returns as head coach this fall. The rotating coach game might help create some interesting new rivalries -- Shikellamy and Lewisburg meet on Sept. 21.
Milton, which soldiered through its share of difficult seasons, enters the 2012 season with renewed hope. The Black Panthers are led by quarterback Brady Chappell, in his third year as a starter, and 2012 state wrestling champion Ryan Solomon, who plays linebacker for the football team.
Selinsgrove, just three seasons away from a state championship, enters the 2012 season trying to recapture the Seal magic. The 2011 season was a bitter disappointment with a mass of suspensions for players contributing to a 1-9 record.
The Seals begin the season by traveling to Mifflinburg, a team that enters the season carrying the laurels of the front-runner. The Wildcats took first in the Heartland Athletic Conference Division I last year and return 17 of the 22 starters on both sides of the ball.
All those story lines suggest that the upcoming high school football season could provide thrills and drama all across the Valley in the weeks ahead. The long drab days of non-football season are over.