COLERAIN TOWNSHIP, Ohio — Lakota West football coach Tom Bolden hopes he doesn't walk to the wrong sideline at Cardinal Stadium on Friday night.
"It's going to be a different view for sure," Bolden said.
After the former longtime Colerain coach accepted the Lakota West position in December 2018, Bolden knew a return trip to Cheviot Road would carry extra anticipation for everyone involved.
"It's very exciting," Colerain senior linebacker Michael Bess Jr. said. "Coach Bolden was my first coach my sophomore year. He will always have something in my heart for here in Colerain, but we are ready for that Friday night."
As the Ohio high school football season starts this weekend, Bolden's return trip is certainly a unique storyline in a unique season during the COVID-19 pandemic.
"That's surreal, brother," St. Xavier coach Steve Specht told Bolden after a scrimmage Aug. 21.
Colerain played at Lakota West in a scrimmage in 2019, and the teams nearly played each other in the postseason a year ago.
"There is a familiarity and an excitement," said Colerain defensive coordinator Phill Joseph, who was on Bolden's staff for a number of years. "But maybe this year, with just being able to be Week 1, that's going to be excitement enough from just knowing we have a chance to get out on the field. But we certainly know that's going to be a great challenge because we know what type of team they've got and what Coach Bolden brings to the table."
Lakota West was supposed to open its Greater Miami Conference schedule in September at Colerain, but the GMC went to a conference-only slate of games due to the six-week regular season set forth by the Ohio High School Athletic Association.
In other words, Week 3 turned into Week 1 on the schedule.
"A lot of emotions seeing 'Coach B' on the other side," said Colerain senior running back/defensive back Freddie Johnson. "That's going to mean a lot. He was like my first coach when I came here. He showed me the way."
The mutual respect is evident.
Colerain coach Shawn Cutright -- the Cardinals' longtime defensive coordinator under Bolden -- is in his second season as the head coach.
"Tom was a tremendous mentor and great coach at Colerain," Cutright said. "We look forward to competing against a gentleman that has so much passion and enthusiasm for the game."
Despite the limited number of fans that will be allowed at Cardinal Stadium, Lakota West and Colerain are primed for a Week 1 showdown.
Colerain, winners of 20 consecutive GMC titles, and Lakota West are expected to be among the top teams in Greater Cincinnati once again.
There is too much at stake to dwell on one particular coach.
"I know he (Bolden) wants us to be focused on the game and not let all that stuff get to him," Lakota West senior linebacker Jackson Kuwatch said. "I'm sure he will bring something up in practice this week."
Lakota West made the postseason last season for the first time since 2014.
Bolden led Colerain to 12 consecutive GMC titles from 2007 to 2018, including 75 consecutive league wins starting in October 2008. Colerain was the 2018 Division I state runner-up.
"That senior class I was there with them," Bolden said. "So it's going to be different. Love Shawn and those guys dearly, but these are my guys here and we're on a mission and it starts Week 1. It will be wild -- I guarantee you that."