After weeks and months of anticipation, fall camps, season previews and rankings that mean nothing, Mississippi's 2014 football season will finally kick off tonight when Madison Central travels to Brandon High for a 7 p.m. show-down of epic proportions.

The Jaguars will be looking for revenge for last year's season-opening, 21-14 loss in the Jungle when they travel to Louis Gene Strickland Field.

Madison Central is coming off a 9-4 season that ended with a second-round playoff loss to Tupelo. Brandon is coming off an 11-2 season and a second-round loss to Meridian.

Brandon coach Brad Peterson, who played and coached under Madison Central coach Bobby Hall, returns one of the best quarterbacks in the state in Gardner Minshew. The talented senior completed 186 passes for 2,690 yards and 24 touchdowns a year ago, and has scholarship offers from at least two FBS schools.

Madison Central counters with a potent rushing attack - led by quarterback Trey Smith - and one of the best wide receivers in the state in Keenan Barnes.

Smith holds scholarship offers from Mississippi State, Memphis, Louisville and Troy, while Barnes holds offers from both of the Magnolia State's SEC schools, Memphis, Louisville and a handful of Louisiana schools.

"Trey's one of the best players in the state," Hall said. "He's got serious potential. He's athletic, he's smart and he can do all the things you want your quarterback to be able to do."

With all eyes trained on that game tonight, it should give Madison County's only 6A football team some exposure around the state.

"It's exciting to have a Thursday night game to kick things off," Hall said. "That's why we set it up that way - it's exciting for the kids and every news outlet in the metro-area will be there."

Madison Central isn't the only team in the area with talent or an interesting storyline, either. To whit:

• Ridgeland coach Kenny Burton is breaking in quarterback Dreyson Thompson, a senior transfer from Canton Academy, and returns his top rusher, Jarric Haymon, but it will probably be the Titans' defense that is going to turn heads in 2014.

• Germantown put up huge numbers last year because quarterback Tyler Shell, who coach Tim Shramek will have to replace, had two excellent receivers to choose from in Reid Kelly and Jaylen Smith. Both are back this year.

• First-year MRA coach Herbert Davis has brought his son, Hayden, with him from Lawrence County to run his spread offense as the starting quarterback. Look for the Patriots to open it up in 2014.

• Over at St. Andrews, senior quarterback Bennie Kirkland's talent might force a change to the Saints' long-held, run-first philosophy under first-year head coach Adam Mangana.

• Former assistant Miller Todd takes over a St. Joseph program that was already successful under recently retired coach Flip Saunders, and has a stud running back in senior Hunter Beene and three good options in receivers DaJour Evans, Jack Harkins and Nick Louvier.

• Velma Jackson linebacker Randy Johnson averaged more than 11 tackles a game last year. How long can this kid fly under the radar?

• Veritas welcomes new coach Billy Earnhart, but returns just two players who have ever touched a football in a real game. Even so, Earnhart has plans to return the program to the 11-man-level and field a competitive team.

The rest of the area teams will kick off their seasons Friday night, and there is no shortage of good local match ups.

Canton will start the Daryl Jones-era by hosting the pesky Panthers from Provine, Madison-Ridgeland Academy is set to play host to Glenbrook School on the new turf at Patriot Field and Jackson Prep is set to host the top-ranked Oxford Chargers, just to name a few.

Fans who are willing to hit the road can travel to Mendenhall to see Burton's Ridgeland Titans try to get revenge on the Tigers for last year's season-opening 28-26 defeat, or to Lauderdale to see Germantown try to run up the score on Northeast Jones.

(For a complete list of week-1 match ups, be sure to check the 2014 Madison County Journal football tab included in today's paper).