There's no place like home and the Jamestown Red Raiders football team feels that way about Strider Field.
They open their 2013 season tonight at 7 at Strider Field against the Niagara Falls Wolverines in one of only three home games during the seven-game regular season.
''One of our season goals is to go undefeated at home and we're 11-0 the last two years at home and we take a great deal of pride in that,'' Jamestown coach Tom Langworthy said when looking ahead to tonight's Class AA game.
But no matter where the game is played, the Red Raiders are simply ready to play.
''The guys are just ready; we've got guys that are just so excited to play football,'' Langworthy said. ''They think about it all year round. The beginning of the season is here and no more weeks and weeks of practice. Now you get a game, a week of practice, a game, week of practice until the end of the season.''
Jamestown got a taste of playing in Saturday's scrimmage at Strider Field and things went pretty much as usual, according to Langworthy.
''There were a lot of good things, there were a handful of bad things,'' he said. ''More than anything we learned a lot and we got better from it. I think the kids see that there is a lot of potential and if we clean some little things up, we can be a very good football team.''
The Red Raiders were a very good football team last season when they finished 8-2 after a loss to Orchard Park in the Class AA title game for the second straight year. And there are plenty of players back from that squad, including senior quarterback Jake Sisson, who passed for 1,665 yards and rushed for 469.
''Last year at this time, Jake had never started a varsity football game and now he's got 10 starts under his belt and now he's the leader of our entire offense,'' Langworthy said. ''We put a lot of responsibility on Jake and he's pretty much a coach on the field for us. He directs everything on the field for us, he knows where to go with the football and he sees a lot of things before the snap even gets off.''
The Red Raiders' leading rusher, Da'Quon Hollingsworth (1,310 yards), is back and bigger.
''He's gained about 15 pounds,'' Langworthy said about the 5-foot-9, 180-pound senior.
Hollingsworth is not only bigger, but faster thanks to work with Ron Graham while running with the Jamestown indoor and outdoor track teams.
''I think Ron did a fantastic job increasing Da'Quon's speed,'' Langworthy said. ''He's really motivated to have a great year.''
Also seeing action at running back will be sophomore Zacc Kinsey, up from the junior varsity.
Mr. Everything for the Red Raiders is Zack Panebianco, who was Sisson's favorite receiver with 29 catches for 653 yards and eight touchdowns. But the junior also led in interceptions with five, was second on the team in scoring with 95 points, handled all the punting (31.5-yard average), returned punts (14.4 average) and was sixth in tackles (48).
''He's really emerging as a leader,'' Langworthy said. ''It's his third year with us, so obviously he knows what to expect. Zack is somebody, for us to reach the lofty goals, that we have to depend on quite a bit.''
Other returning receivers are Stephen Carlson, Josh Colwell and Ben Larson.
''We have a pretty experienced receiving crop and they get a lot of attention along with the skill guys, but I think our line has come along in the last couple of weeks,'' Langworthy said. ''Eric Tingue was a reserve last year, but he's starting both ways Friday night (on the line).''
There have been some other newcomers who have stepped up, such as senior Cameron Haberberger, who took a year off from football and has come back and will be at outside linebacker.
''He's done a good job for us and he'll be starting on Friday night,'' Langworthy said. ''He's undersized (5-5, 150), but he's tough and he's not afraid to stick his nose in there.''
He added, ''Kevin Mosley is another linebacker that is going to be involved in a lot of plays for us.''
Jamestown lost its top two tacklers from last season, but Langworthy thinks he sees replacements.
''I think Damien Jackson will be very effective because he's all over the field and he's another Jake Sisson-type in that he's a coach on the field,'' the coach said about the junior linebacker. ''He directs where a lot of our players go and he's able to identify formations and strengths of other team's offenses. Damien, I think, is going to be in on a lot of tackles.''
And he points to a junior tackle who will anchor the defensive line.
''Big Joe Mistretta (6-1, 265) is coming back from a great season last year and he should be a force to be reckoned with,'' Langworthy said.
He noted Niagara Falls is a team to be reckoned with, despite coming off a 4-5 season and only seven returnees on the roster.
''They're always very, very fast and they're always very, very athletic and if you make a mistake they're going to make you pay for it with a big play,'' Langworthy said. ''We can't let them get outside, we can't miss tackles. The guys have to do what they're coached to do and do it at high level.''
The main speedster for the Wolverines is junior running back Shaolin McCray.
Last season in the second week, the teams were scheduled to play a Saturday afternoon game at Niagara Falls. The Red Raiders had reached Grand Island when they learned the Wolverines' field was unplayable because of recent rains. A nearby alternative field could not be secured, so it was agreed to move the game to Strider Field that night and Jamestown won, 35-7.
No matter what happens tonight, Langworthy points out the Red Raiders are still a work in progress.
''The football team we are now, however good we are, is going to be much different in five or six weeks,'' he said.