CLOVIS, Calif. (KGPE) – The high school football season officially kicks off on Thursday night, and the marquee game has Clovis High welcoming Long Beach Poly to the Central Valley.

The game will feature the debut of new Clovis head coach Aaron Wilkins.

After he was hired in February, Wilkins jumped at the opportunity to schedule the Jackrabbits in the Cougars opening game.

Long Beach Poly is a perennial state power, and the reigning Division IV Southern Section champions.

“Excited for the Valley,” said Wilkins, a Yosemite High alum who comes to Clovis after recent assistant coaching stints in the college ranks at Liberty and Northern Illinois. “When I first got here (Clovis High), it was an option to play this team or that team (in our opener). (I said) let’s play the best, and I think that’s gonna tell us where our program’s at right off the bat.”

The Jackrabbits always feature a roster loaded with college prospects, but that’s not something Wilkins wants his team thinking about.

The Cougars have to replace Nate Johnson at quarterback, who has moved on to the University of Utah, and it will be a freshman who will try to fill those shoes.

Freshman Deagan Rose won the competition with returning junior Jackson Kloster for the starting job, and Kloster has since transferred to Roosevelt.

Physically, Rose doesn’t look like a freshman, and Wilkins think he’ll be ready for the bright lights on Thursday night.

Kickoff Thursday night at Lamonica Stadium in Clovis is set for 7 p.m.