And at the four-team event Friday night at Perryville High School, there were plenty of reasons for hope when Scott City, St. Vincent and Potosi gathered with the host.
There was Scott City senior running back Travis Phillips back on the field and taking handoffs after his stellar junior season was cut short by a knee injury that required surgery.
Perryville was debuting a sophomore at quarterback, and Tyler Holligan gave a program that has lost 21 of its last 22 games reason to think brighter days are on the horizon.
St. Vincent unveiled its new spread offense, and junior tailback Alex Winkler made the Indians' attack look dangerous with a pair of touchdowns.
His most recent carry had come in the opening minutes of the second half of the Rams' sixth game of the 2011 season. His 29th carry in that game against Portageville pushed his game rushing total to 208 yards but proved to be his last of the season.
He mostly played defense for the Rams at the jamboree and wore a healthy smile afterward.
"It feels great to be back on the field. I've been waiting all year for this," Phillips said. "Madden NFL just doesn't cut it."
Phillips didn't mind the light workload in an offense directed by senior quarterback Jonathan McFall.
Holligan was part of an overall sharp performance by the host Pirates. Perryville, which went 1-9 in coach Mike Wojtczuk's first season, scored once against Scott City and once against Potosi.
The defense yielded just a late touchdown to Potosi and a long touchdown run by Winkler on St. Vincent's second offensive play. It was a steady performance by a team that was outscored 360-77 last season.
"I was real proud of the way the kids showed up and performed tonight," Wojtczuk said. "I'm real proud of the defense, and our running game tonight was pretty dad-gum good."
Junior running back Cody Crawford had the bulk of the carries in a running attack that also featured fullback Aaron Hadler, Jonny Pruiett and Holligan.
The sophomore hooked up with senior Lucas Hotop on two long passes, including a scoring toss against Potosi. Hotop dropped a potential touchdown pass against St. Vincent, but senior Levi Zook made a nice sideline catch against Scott City and showed good hands on a couple other short passes.
Holligan also scored on a short run against Scott City after a long pass to Hotop.
"For a sophomore put in game-style situations, I thought he responded," Wojtczuk said about Holligan. "He did some good things tonight, and we're excited about where he's headed and where our offense is headed."
Holligan took all the snaps, which was somewhat of a surprise after Wojtczuk had said the sophomore was in competition with junior Alex Plunkett earlier in the week.
"We looked at that, but we felt where we were right now and what we were trying to do, Tyler was the guy we needed to go with," Wojtczuk said.
Wojtczuk also was pleased with his linebacker play, a group led by seniors Devin Blandford and Hadler.
"I'm really proud of the way we played defense because everyone knows that defense has been our Achilles' heel for years," said Wojtczuk, whose team will open at home Friday against East Prairie.
An otherwise positive night for the Pirates was tempered by the loss of 6-foot-7, 305-pound right tackle Tyler Dawson, who injured his left arm on the Pirates' first play and had to be assisted off the field.
"He did break his arm," Wojtczuk said. "That's a bad deal. He's a senior and just worked his way into a starting spot on offense."
St. Vincent wasted little time in establishing Winkler, the team's top returning rusher and the second-leading receiver from last season, in its renovated offense, which now has senior Trent Elder at quarterback.
Elder threw a 35-yard touchdown pass to Winkler in the opening series against Potosi, and Winkler later capped his night with about a 40-yard run against Perryville.
"He's a threat when he carries the football, and we're going to put the ball in his hands a number of times this year," St. Vincent coach Paul Sauer said.
St. Vincent's defense yielded just a touchdown pass to Potosi.
"I thought going into the season, early on, our defense was going to be decent," Sauer said. "Defense is usually way ahead of offense, especially early in the season. I like what I seen. We need to build on it."
The Indians will play Scott City in Week 2, so the teams arranged to play their JV teams at the jamboree instead of the varsity.
"I called coach Sauer," Scott City coach Jim May said. "We played our older guys against Potosi and Perryville and our younger guys against St. Vincent. We've got them in two weeks. We'll get all we want of them then, I'm sure."
Freshman Drew Short started at quarterback for the Rams, while junior Lucas Carroll and freshman Joe Whistler took care of the duties for the Indians.
"We let the younger kids have that, and the varsity kids will have it in two weeks," Sauer said.
The Indians will open their season at home Friday against Sumner, which is a change from their original plan to travel to Smyma, Tenn.
"We found out today that Lancaster Christian Academy in Tennessee was not TSSAA affiliated, and we could not play them," Sauer said.
Sauer found that Sumner had an opening and arranged a game.
"We'll stay at home and play at home," Sauer said. "It's a pleasant surprise."