Salpointe Catholic running back Bijan Robinson, right, should put up big numbers this season. The Lancers will get an early test when El Paso Del Valle visits on Sept. 21. It will be the first time Salpointe plays an out-of-state team in five seasons. The high school season gets started Thursday when Mountain View visits Ironwood Ridge in another must-see game.

The high school football season starts Thursday, which means every week will be filled with at least a dozen games across Tucson and Southern Arizona. Here are some games in town that you should have marked on your calendar this season.

Aug. 16: Mountain View
at Ironwood Ridge

This matchup should set the tone for the Southern Arizona high school football season. It’s on Thursday, the only game played that night, and it’s between two programs that have maintained a solid reputation as football powers on the northwest side. It’s going to come down to two factors: Ironwood Ridge’s running attack, with Nathan Grijalva who steps in for Nick Brahler, and Mountain View’s defensive front seven.

The Mountain Lions lose defensive tackle Kai Golden, but return linebackers Calib McRae and Aaron Logsdon. Last season, Mountain View squeaked out a 28-23 win at home. With Ironwood Ridge now hosting, grab your popcorn.

Sept. 7: El Paso Del Valle
at Salpointe Catholic

The last time Salpointe Catholic played an out-of-state opponent was in 2013 when arguably the top SCHS team ever assembled took down Crespi 47-7 in Encino, California. That team featured several Division I signees including Cam Denson, Kaelin Deboskie, Taylor Powell and Jake Casteel. Five years later, Dennis Bene has a pair of high-level college recruits in juniors Bijan Robinson and Lathan Ranson, who have offers from Alabama, USC, Georgia, LSU, Michigan, Washington and Stanford.

Texas opponents are slightly different than California teams. The stereotype is true: Football is practically a religion in Texas, and Del Valle is coming from El Paso to make a statement.

Del Valle quarterback Raymond Montez, brother of Colorado University’s Steven Montez, has thrown for 4,976 yards with a 66 completion percentage in his varsity career, and should be a challenge for Salpointe’s stout defense.

Sept. 7: Catalina Foothills
at Sabino

If you aren’t able to drive to Salpointe for its game against Del Valle and reside on the east side of town, then stop by Sabino High.

Catalina Foothills head coach Jeff Scurran won three state titles at Sabino and returns to his old stomping grounds for the first time in three seasons. 

Sabino’s stud offensive tackle Caden Wechsler has received college interest from Northern Arizona, so just the battle in the trenches alone should be a fun one to watch in the Scurran Bowl.

Sept. 21: Queen Creek Benjamin Franklin at Sabino

The only thing that stopped Sabino head coach Ryan McBrayer from winning a ring in his first season at the helm last year was Queen Creek Benjamin Franklin’s last-minute drive in the Class 3A state title game, with the Chargers taking down the Sabercats 35-31.

Normally Sahuaro would be the team circled on Sabino’s calendar, but a defensive breakdown in a state championship game has swirled in the Sabercats’ minds for the last 10 months. Revenge games are always fun, especially when the team that lost is the host.

Oct. 12: Marana at Cienega

When these two get together, it’s often a shootout. The Bobcats and Tigers battled in the 2017 season opener and it was a classic.

Marana quarterback Trenton Bourguet went 20 of 34 for 477 yards and five touchdowns while then-Cienega quarterback Jamarye Joiner had 239 yards passing and 170 rushing, with the Bobcats winning 57-50.

The teams met again in the quarterfinals of the 5A state playoffs and despite a late comeback from Marana, the Tigers fell 38-35.

With Joiner gone, Marana smells blood and is on the hunt to beat Cienega for the first time in program history.

And with a Cienega team that still returns a load of talent on both sides of the ball, cancel your Friday night plans and head out to Vail to watch what should be another classic.

Sports producer

Justin Spears is an award-winning sports journalist and Tucson native. He can be reached at jspears@tucson.com. On Twitter @justinesports.