West High quarterback Khaiden Dearmore looks to zip the ball upfield during practice on Aug. 2.

With a bevy of high school football games scheduled for Friday night, West High will take the spotlight Thursday when the Vikings open the 2019 season with a game vs. Tulare-Mission Oak.

Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. at Bob Mathias Stadium on the campus of Tulare Union High.

The Vikings, who were 6-6 last season despite losing powerful fullback Leauauna Laulu Jr. to a leg injury in Week 3 last season, are healthy and ready to get started, according to fourth-year head coach Derrick Dunham

“The kids are really excited to have an opportunity to play,” Dunham said. “Going up to Tulare, traveling out of town and seeing a different part of California. Most of them haven’t been out of town before. So they’re excited by all those things.

“And as coaches, we’re excited because we have another opportunity to evaluate our team and where we’re at at this point. We have a mixture of young kids and some older senior guys, so we’re just trying to get that mixture, and see what we’ve got.”

West figures to have a solid run game.

Kaulu was a hard man to bring down early last season. He rushed for 508 yards and seven TDs in just three games, including 122 yards and two scores in a 21-14 loss to Mission Prep in last year’s season opener. He joins senior quarterback Khaiden Dearmore, who will also see time at linebacker and defensive end, and sophomore tailback Daylon Leach to form a talented backfield.

“Participation is down a little bit here at West, and it sounds like at a couple of other schools in town, so we’re combining our JV and our varsity this year,” Dunham said. “So we have some younger kids that are getting up to speed as far as varsity competition and how fast the game is.

“We may be a little inexperience going into the year, but we’ll have an opportunity to get some of those kids on the field (Thursday), and see how they react to the varsity atmosphere, varsity speed and especially going out of town and facing another team.”

Dunham expects Mission Oak to present a good early-season challenge for his squad.

“What we saw on film is they have big guys up front, have good skill guys and some quick guys on the outside,” Dunham said. “And they like to throw the ball around a little bit, probably throw more than they run.

“They got us last year. We kind of gave a couple touchdowns to them, so we’re looking to go back and maybe learn from last year as far as what we did wrong, and compete against them on their home field this year.”

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