REED CITY —  It’s a different, but very unique opening-game football opponent for the Reed City Coyotes this season.

Rather than going south against Big Rapids as the Coyotes have done in recent seasons, they’re facing a rival in Thrusday’s opener from the west in the Baldwin Panthers, led by all-state quarterback candidate Brandon Childress.

It’s a new season for Reed City the three-time Central State Activities Association champs who have gone 9-0 the past three regular seasons and own a 29-game winning streak excluding playoff contests.

Coach Monty Price’s team is coming off a scrimmage last week at Montague against Ludington, Shelby and Cadillac.

“Overall, I was pretty pleased with the effort,” Price said. “I thought we competed hard and played physical. We didn’t do too bad of a job with our execution. I certainly saw things we have to work on and improve on to get better. We want to raise the level of play to that of a championship caliber team. We have to get to work.

“It’s the little things like carrying out fakes, blocking to the whistle, tackling, fundamental stuff.”

The Coyotes are healthy right now and ready to get going.

It will also be the debut of a new quarterback in senior Nolan Patterson following the graduation of Chad Samuels.

“He’s had a rough go with his foot situation and breaking his leg or his ankle and has had a long road back in the recovery process,” Price said. “He gave us a great summer and a great spring. He’s really fine-tuned his footwork and his throwing mechanics. He’s a senior and the kids respect him and look up to him. He’s one of those leaders. He gives us a lot of things Chad did. He’s going to have an opportunity to leave his legacy on the program. Unfortunately, it will be somewhat limited with the number of years he’s been able to play with his injury. He’s a great kid and leader.”

The backfield returns with Jon Green, Andre Jones and Colin Hatfield behind a talented offensive line that should make the Coyotes formidable again.

“They’re improved and if we get them to play snap to whistle and get back in game shape, I think you’re going to see some special things out of them,” Price said.

Eric Grannis, an all-state linebacker, has graduated from the defense.

“We can’t replace an Eric Grannis but we have a junior who had over 100 tackles as a sophomore in Taylor Pelton,” Price said. “I would think he’s our defensive leader. We bring back defensive linemen and backs that got great experience for us last year. I think we’ll be fine defensively. But once again, it comes down to tackling and having someone take charge of that unit. We’re hoping Taylor Pelton and the likes of T.J. Patterson and Ian MacDonald can do those things.”

The Coyotes have six CSAA games this season and will start Thursday with one of their three nonleague opponents.

“They’re very talented,” Price said of Baldwin. “Everyone knows the caliber of quarterback they have. He’s probably one of the finest players athletically we’ve seen since I’ve been coaching here in 1999. Those types of athletes like Brandon Childress don’t come around too often especially at small school football. He’s a special kid and he has some talent to go around him. They’re potentially a dangerous team athletically speaking.

“Their coaching staff is doing a great job on matching their schemes to fit their talent. They’re a wide open offense and will look to have Brandon scramble and make plays when there aren’t any there in terms of open receivers. We’ll have to be very disciplined in our assignments. It will be a test of will. We’ll have to play responsible football defensively to stop Mr. Childress and his supporting cast.”