Will host Cuba in 2013 opener.

The St. James High School football team is hoping its season-opener goes as well as last year's.

The Tigers open the 2013 season by hosting its non-conference neighbor, Cuba, tonight. Kickoff at St. James High Field is set for 7 p.m.

The St. James Community Tailgate Party will begin prior to the game, with free food and drink available.

If current plans hold, it will be the last opener the Tigers play on their grass field. After the season a synthetic turf is scheduled to be installed at St. James.

St. James is trying to improve on a 3-7 overall record from last year while the Cuba Wildcats were 1-9 in 2012.

Last season St. James opened the season with a bang, blasting the Wildcats 40-12.

This year Cuba returns six starters on defense and five on offense.
The last several years the Wildcats have used a run-dominated double-wing formation. However, during its jamboree last week Cuba ran from the pistol, with two backs behind the QB.

"They look like they've made some changes offensively," said St. James head coach Greg Harlan. "The worst thing about jamborees is there is not a lot of game film. But with their skill people I thought they looked very good."

Expecting the lead the Cuba charge is senior running back Austin Burlage, who rushed for more than 700 yards despite fighting ankle injuries in 2012.

Junior Nick Lemons, a running back last year who rushed for around 500 yards, is now the Wildcats' quarterback. Other Cuba running backs are junior Devin Lea, who rushed for 500 yards last year, junior transfer Jeff Wagner and sophomore Dayton Killeen.

"Offensively our team speed is the fastest since I've been here," said Cuba head coach Jim Wolfe. "We have four or five guys who can make big plays on any snap."

A new QB is leading the Tiger charge in sophomore Brett Karnes. Pacing the ground game is senior running back Jesse Hays (551 rushing yards). Harlan feels his core of receivers may be the best he's had with the Tigers, led by senior Cody Birkner (32 receptions, 437 yards in '12) and also including 6-6 senior Addison Conway, senior Jamal Hawkins-Sconiers and junior Jake Money.

Defensively all-conference returners Hays at linebacker and Birkner at cornerback help pace the Tigers.

With the expected hot weather the Tigers' superior roster numbers could end up playing a factor.

"(Cuba's) numbers are down a little," Harlan said. "Hopefully we get in a good, solid rotation that will help us at the end of the game."