Inland Empire: After an extra long offseason, time to lace 'em up.

After covering high school football for 15 straight seasons, I haven't attended a game since the 2007 Division I state bowl championship between Concord De La Salle and Corona Centennial.

At least it was memorable. Centennial scored 24 consecutive points in the second half to tie the score, 31-31, only to give up the winning touchdown at the Home Depot Center with about five minutes left.

The players laid it on the line in that 15th game, a longer season than most college teams play. It was high school football at its best.

Experiences like that is what excites me about getting back on the sidelines, hearing the crack of shoulder pads and seeing the intensity up close. No paychecks on the line here, just the pride of representing a school, a family, one's self.

First stop for me is Thursday night at Miller High in Fontana, site of Fontana Summit and Etiwanda.

The matchup figures to be a close contest between two solid Inland Empire programs. Can't ask for more than that.

However, I have extra motivation to attend because it's also a chance to see Summit senior quarterback Devon Blackmon, another one of the elite offensive players in the IE this season.

He has college wide receiver written all over him, according to recruiting sites. Among the schools pursuing him are Alabama, California, USC, UCLA, Washington, Florida and Oregon.

Etiwanda plays in the more competitive Baseline League, and its nonleague schedule could be a factor in this one. The Eagles are scheduled to travel to Vista Murrieta next week and host Norco at Miller the week after that.

Finally, it will be interesting to see who Summit lines up across from Etiwanda offensive lineman Jamal Prater, a 6-foot-5, 295-pounder who has committed to Oregon.