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The Clinton Arrows open their 93rd football season with a short trip Friday down I-20 to Pearl.

Kickoff is 7 p.m. at Pirate Stadium. Excitement has been building in the preseason for the Arrows, who started a very young team in 2013 with as many as 14 ninth- and 10th-grade starters.

All of those players are returning and have a year of experience under their belts. “We’ve come a long way since last November in the off season,” said third- year Arrow head coach Judd Boswell. “We are still young, but this is a special group that has worked so hard. This group has the best team chemistry of any group since I’ve been here.”

The Arrows have a brutal schedule starting with eighth- ranked Pearl. Down the road, CHS faces Brandon, Meridian, Madison Central and Starkville, all top 10 teams.

CHS is making its first trip to Pearl since 2001. The Pirates were 11-3 and a 5A semifinalist in 2013. They’re led by star running back Jordan Wright, who had 1,733 rushing yards and 30 TDs in 2013.

Clinton and Pearl were old rivals in the old Little Dixie Conference and played every year from 1953-1992. Clinton leads the series 27-20. The two teams did not play from 2003-2012, but resumed the series last year.

Last year’s pairing was a 44-13 blowout by Pearl at Arrow Field. CHS only trailed 9-7 at the half, but gave up 21 points in 30 seconds on turnovers in the second half.

Arrow offensive and defensive coordinators are optimistic about the season. “Pearl is big and physical, and we have to stop Jordan Wright and slow them down,” said defensive coordinator Bobby Bass. “They mix it up, too, and can throw and catch well. Our kids are pumped up about playing the No. 8-ranked team to start the season.”

“We feel good about our offense going into the season,” said Arrow offensive coordinator Ben Shelton. “We’re going to mix it up and use the whole field. We’ve got a good chance at Pearl if we execute like we are supposed to and do not turn it over.”

Boswell agreed. “We are going into the season healthy and in a good mental state. The fact that we are not ranked is not important. Our kids know that we can win this game if we play well and do not make a lot of mistakes. Our kids remember this game from last year and will play hard.”

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