Preparation and anticipation succumbs to the real thing here tonight, when the Fort Dodge football team makes their 2012 season debut against Urbandale.
Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. inside Dodger Stadium.
Head coach Matt Miller's squad begins a campaign filled with both uncertainty and transition by welcoming the J-Hawks to town. Both squads join the rest of the Class 4A ranks on the state's west side in district competition this fall, which starts on Sept. 21.
In the meantime, Fort Dodge and Urbandale are both ready to get their four-week prelude under way.
''We're looking forward to an immediate challenge against what I consider to be a Top-10 caliber opponent,'' Miller said of the J-Hawks, who were 6-5 overall a season ago. ''Urbandale has a lot of talent, speed and a Div. I kid in (junior) Allen Lazard making plays all over the field.
''We'll find out how we stack up fairly quickly. Like usual, it's going to come down to who makes the fewest mistakes and executes on both sides of the ball. We're ready to go.''
LT: Jake Porter, 265, jr.
LG: Michael Carlson, 280, sr.
C: Kyle Johnson, 220, sr.
RG: Carlos Rocha, 230, jr.
RT: Connor Hubbard, 260, sr.
SE: Tyler Vaughn, 170, sr.
SE: Keegan Jones, 175, sr.
WB: Wesley Castro, 155, sr.
HB: Tommy Halligan, 180, sr.
TB: Austin Halligan, 170, so.
QB: Andrew Stover, 175, jr.
DE: Riley Prescott, 220, jr.
NG: Marquan Clayton, 295, jr.
LB: Adrean Johnson, 180, sr.
LB: Anthony Credit, 185, sr.
LB: Brandon Archibald, 175, jr.
LB: T. Halligan
LB: A. Halligan
Eleven starters are back in the lineup for the Dodgers, who were 3-7 overall a year ago and 2-3 in CIML Iowa Conference play. All-conference honorees Tommy Halligan (HB) and Michael Carlson (OL) return, along with Tyler Vaughn (SE), Wesley Castro (WB), Jake Porter (OL), Riley Prescott (DE), Adrean Johnson (LB), Anthony Credit (LB) and Keegan Jones (CB). Tailback Austin Anderson and nose guard Gavin Thomas are injured.
''We're kind of a mixed bag - very experienced in spots and very green in others,'' Miller said. ''We have six kids going both ways (Tommy and sophomore Austin Halligan, Castro, Jones, Vaughn and Rocha), so we're going to need some other guys to step up and show they can compete on this level and give us some depth.
''I'm looking at Devon Kirby (in the backfield), Zach Anderson or a Tristan Shaw (at receiver), Jordan Narber and Skyler Harris (on the line), Sam Cook (linebacker), Brandon Schoenfeld and Berch Fritz (cornerbacks) - kids who are just as important to us as our starters.''
Junior Andrew Stover takes the reins at quarterback. Stover, a varsity letterwinner as a sophomore in both basketball and baseball, replaces Sam Edwards, who passed for 2,141 yards last fall as a senior.
''Andrew is a very capable thrower and a heady player,'' Miller said. ''He'll have to make good decisions constantly and adjust to the speed of the varsity level on a Friday night. I have confidence that he will not only settle in quickly but eventually flourish.''
Lazard - who already has Div. I offers from Iowa, Iowa State and Nebraska - will play receiver and in the secondary for the J-Hawks, who won here 25-14 a year ago. All-conference running back Markell Colemon (86 carries for 748 yards) is also back, along with Redzo Ibisevic (OL), Justin Haun (OL), Shaquille Wells (DL), Jaylan Alexander (DB) and Ryan Lillard (DB).
''They aren't overly big as a team, but they're both quick and physical,'' Miller said. ''Lazard is obviously someone you have to identify and closely track on each snap. He's 6-foot-4 and a legitimate Big Ten or Big 12 type athlete.''