It’s that time of year again. Are you ready?
Welcome to the 2011 prep football season! It was a treacherous trip to get here. The Chicagoland area endured a crippling blizzard and scorching hot temperatures along the way but the boys state-wide are ready to open up play under the lights tomorrow night. It’s late August, it’s time for football.
There were some changes to the Fox Valley Conference since the last school year.
I’d like to welcome the Fox Valley Conference’s newest school, Hampshire, to the FVC. They’ll play in the FVC Fox Division. It expands the conference to 14 teams and moves Prairie Ridge over to the FVC Valley Division, which seems to get richer and richer as time goes on.
Hampshire opens up their season at home against Burlington Central but will begin FVC play in Week 3 when it hosts Grayslake Central on September 9.
Hampshire is in for a football culture shock after being in the Big Northern Conference for so long. Hampshire will face the likes of Crystal Lake Central and Cary-Grove this season and play traditional programs like Woodstock as well.
Most of the teams in the FVC are 5A or above. Crystal Lake South, Jacobs and McHenry reside in 7A. When the time comes to play some of them in Fox Valley crossovers, Hampshire’s not going to recognize these foes.
They’ll recognize some, though. Former BNC teams Huntley and Johnsburg made the move over the FVC over the past few years so they won’t be so lost.
And as time goes on and the program recognizes what it has to do to play with the competition, it’ll only pay off for Hampshire.
As for the rest of the conference…
With the addition of Hampshire, the entire conference now can play six games within its division. It does limit the amount of non-conference dates on the schedule but may be somewhere down the road they’ll get in a lofty conference championship game. That would be something.
As for the conference outlook, Cary-Grove and Prairie Ridge look to lead the Valley Division with Jacobs and Crystal Lake South respectfully behind. Jacobs comes loaded behind coach Bill Mitz, who’s in his second year at the helm for the Golden Eagles.
I’m excited to see Caz Zyks and Kyle Wright in the backfield. After one game I gave them the nickname “Thunder” and “Lightning.”
Dundee-Crown welcomed a new head coach to the program, Vito Andriola. He’ll have the task of turning around the Charger program, which badly needs it. If Fred Steinhaus is reading this – I know your pain.
Huntley is bringing in a junior group who won eight games as sophomores.
On the Fox side, Crystal Lake Central should own the conference now that PR moved up. They’ll get competition from Grayslake Central for sure.
There is no doubt Cary-Grove and Prairie Ridge could be undefeated. Cary-Grove returns just about everybody from their quarterfinal team, except long-time head coach Bruce Kay, who retired last season. Brad Seaburg takes over from his sophomore duties and has a team that’s state championship worthy. We’ll be checking in with the Trojans a lot this season. Seaburg walked into the position at exactly the right time.
As for my picks this season – If the Fox Valley can expand, so too will my picks. This year, I’ll include much of the Daily Herald’s circulation area around Elgin. I’ll feature picks for Bartlett, Elgin, Hampshire, Larkin, South Elgin, St. Edward and Streamwood.
Bartlett returns stud quarterback A.J. Bilyeu where it seems like anybody’s conference in the Upstate Eight.
Bilyeu is Air Force-bound and should lead a pretty good Hawks squad that has a lot coming back from last year’s team that lost to Maine South in the second round of the 8A playoffs.
I enjoyed covering that Hawks team last year. They’ll a pretty tough group that does not back down.
Elgin is coming off a 6-3 season led by the Daily Herald’s Fox Valley Athlete of the Year Jordan Dean. Dean graduated in June but the Maroons look to build off 2010. Dean was also a vital piece of Elgin’s regional and Upstate Eight conference champion basketball team.
South Elgin and Streamwood should also compete hard this year.
St. Edward always has a tough spot in the SCC but the Green Wave have been riding a big wave of success in recent time. But Montini, Marian Central and Marmion Academy stand in their way. It’ll be tough for a playoff three-peat but the last two playoff appearances gives the Wave hope.
It’s time for another season of football. Tomorrow night I’ll be out at Jacobs for their opener against Joliet West. The season will take its course and every week it’s a new experience for me wherever I go.
And for a lot of these teams, their course is simple. Win. Win a lot. Win conference. Win state. Win everything.
Welcome to the 2011 prep football season! I hope you enjoy!