High school football fans don't have to wait for Friday - the 2011 season begins tonight.

The Bob Cervetto era in Dublin kicks off when the Lions face old rival Hico at 7:30 p.m. tonight at Tarleton Memorial Stadium.

Hico has been a playoff regular for many years, and head coach Keith Wood hopes to continue that trend after his Tigers reached the opening round of the 2A Division II post season a year ago.

Dublin, on the other hand, is in complete rebuilding mode.

Cervetto took over with the mantra, "Restore the roar," and the Lions have already shown solid signs of progress after going 2-28 over the last three seasons including an 0-10 mark last fall.

Cervetto stared at 18 names on an offseason test and measurements chart his first day on the job back in the spring semester. He shared the DHS practice fields with 58 Lions on opening day of two-a-days.

"We'd like to get it up to 70 kids and keep growing from there," said Cervetto, who reported having 60 players by the second week of two-a-days. "The good news is this is the time of year when most programs lose a few players during two-a-days, especially in this heat, but we've actually gained a couple players."

Hico ran over Dublin 56-7 in last year's opener, also played at Tarleton. The Tigers went on to finish 6-5.

The Tigers have moved Alex Sikes from running back to quarterback and have only one returning starter on the offensive line. The defense has just three regulars back.

"We don't have much Friday night experience, but we do have more depth than last year," said Wood, who says the Tigers will have 26 names on its varsity roster after having just 18 last year.

Hico has been retooling its Wing-T rushing attack to come out of a one-back formation, and the offense led the way in preseason scrimmages. The Tigers' starters scored four times while surrendering five touchdowns to San Saba, ranked eighth in 2A Division II by Texas Football Magazine. In their second round of scrimmage play, they outscored both Moody and Valley Mills.

Dublin didn't score in either of its preseason scrimmages against Meridian and Tolar, but still showed improvement over last season, especially when sophomore quarterback Dirk DeVries was able to get the ball to senior receiver and football newcomer Hunter Turner.

The Dublin defense has improved immensely, Cervetto says.

"We have some breakdowns here and there, but that's going to happen," Cervetto said. "The big thing is we've started really flying to the football, and that's a great way to start the year."

A win would also be a great way to start the year, for either team.

Especially when it comes in a rivalry game.