There are many reasons why Thursday's season-opening meeting between Liberty-Eylau and Gilmer deserves the No. 1 ranking on's list of the top 25 games of 2015.

For one, it will be the first time Gilmer takes the field with someone other than Jeff Traylor coaching the Buckeyes since 1999. Longtime Traylor assistant Matt Turner took over program following Traylor's departure for the University of Texas as the Longhorns' new tight ends coach.

Secondly, the clash could represent a changing of the guard among Class 4A East Texas football. Gilmer is the defending Division II champs, while Liberty-Eylau returns most of its players from 2014's surprising run to the Division I state quarterfinals.

Liberty-Eylau QB Ke'Mon Freeman. (Rob Graham,

And lastly, it is just the next in a long line of high-profile matchups between programs that have won a combined five state championships since 1999.

Liberty-Eylau and Gilmer have met eight times since 2006, and the Buckeyes have won on seven occasions. However, the one that resonates with Gilmer fans the most is the Leopards' first-round playoff upset of the 10-0 Buckeyes in the first round of the 2006 playoffs.

Gilmer was stacked with Division I talent that season, and had rolled through the regular season without a single opponent playing the Buckeyes to within 20 points. Liberty-Eylau, meanwhile, went on to win state that year.

In the 2015 installment, L-E welcomes back quarterback Ke'Mon Freeman, running back Lamont Byrd, and receiver Thurman Morbley on offense. The Leopards also return a collection of heavy hitters on the defensive as well, including lineman LaGaryonn Carson, linebacker DeMarcus Pegue, and defensive back Andre Wiley, Jr.

Gilmer will experience an almost complete overhaul on offense, but brings back quite a bit of experience on the defensive side of the ball. Defensive lineman/linebacker Demarco Boyd, a Texas commit, headlines the group. He'll be supported by the return of linebackers Kelton Collier and Cambron Granville, and defensive backs Devin Smith and Kollin Hurt.

Liberty-Eylau. Gilmer. Not a bad way to kick off the 2015 season.'s Top 25 Games of 2015