Below you’ll find the Channel1450 preseason power rankings for the CS8 and Sangamo, including write-ups for each team and our radio segment on the Sports Radio 1450 Press Box.
1. SHG: The Cyclones bring back Tremayne Lee and Brian Adams, two Division 1-AA who are all-state caliber. SHG also brings back a loaded defense that is young, yet experienced for a group that played in the 6A state championship in 2016. Matt Brenneisen, Grant Edwards, John Keen and Joey Milbrandt will provide us with a handful of Big Nasties this year.
2. Rochester: The Rockets enter 2017 having won their sixth state championship in seven years. Nic Baker’s progress in the postseason was gleaming, but the Rockets’ offense has some question marks with the departures of Avante’ Cox, D’Ante Cox, Collin Stallworth and Matt Wike. Luckily for the Rockets, they have one of the top quarterbacks area and one of the best offensive minds in the state in Derek Leonard. Rochester’s defense returns several starters from last year’s team, which will provide this team a lot of support.
3. Springfield: The talent is there. That is known. Will the Senators be able to translate that into wins? If Springfield plays competitive, like it did against SHG and Rochester at the end of the season, a playoff berth should be all but locked down, especially considering the CS8 is down this year. If Springfield has another down year, things will get interesting.
4. Glenwood: The Jubbar Cross highlight reel will be a week to week storyline this season, but where will he play? Multiple positions could be the answer to that question. This is a young Titans team, though, with only seven seniors.
5. Jacksonville: The Crimsons offensive line is skilled and meaty. They should be able to wear teams down in the trenches, paving way for talented running back, Marquel White. Will Jacksonville be able to have success in the passing game? Avery Dugan can sling it, but Mark Grounds needs some young wide receivers to step up.
6. MacArthur: The Generals won just one game in 2016. Armon and Amir Brummett can carry a large load, but they both play on both sides of the ball, so MacArthur desperately needs other players to help spell the twins, or it could be another long season in Decatur. The Brummett’s are Division I, all-state type players and assuredly, they’ll be able to please the crowd.
7. Southeast: The Spartans will start sophomore, Stuart Ross at quarterback this year. Coach Matt Lauber said he’s the first “true quarterback” he’s had since taking the reigns on the East Side. His development is something to keep track of. Ross will be able to hand it off to experienced running back, Vince Hill.
8. Lanphier: When we walked up to Lanphier’s practice, the Lions were laying each other out. The physicality was visible and the culture seemed to have shifted in a big way. The Lions could surprise some folks in the conference this year.
9. Normal U-High: John Johnson brings a west coast offense to the Pioneers. He’s spent time with the Green Bay Packers and has some great experience. U-High has some skill, but depth is a major concern.
10. Eisenhower: The Panthers were extremely skilled last year, advancing to the second round of the 5A playoffs, while bringing winning football back to Decatur, which was refreshing. Many of the key contributors from that successful squad have graduated and the Panthers will need to count on new, inexperienced faces this year.
1. Williamsville: The Bullets had the requisite talent to be playing for a 3A state championship last year, but defensively, the Bullets couldn’t clamp down on Jacob Dixon and Carlinville. The Bullets bring back a bulk of last seasons highly skilled team and their offense could be the most prolific unit in the Sangamo. Senior quarterback Justice Ferrier can make almost any throw on the field and he’s got a bevy of wide receivers to get the ball to.
2. Maroa-Forsyth: Coming off a 2A state runner-up finish, Maroa-Forsyth is reloaded and recharged. The Trojans are right on the heels of the Bullets. Their line is much bigger than last year, which is important, given the Trojans will be starting sophomore quarterback, Ian Benner.
3. Athens: The Warriors could have just as much, if not more talent than the 2016 group. Athens feels like it missed out on an opportunity to possibly play for a 1A state title. That’s a realistic scenario again this year. The Warriors wing-option offense is really tough to prepare for in a conference with a lot of spread offensives. Athens is probably the most physical team in the Sangamo. There will be a lot of green and black on Big Nasty this season.
4. Pleasant Plains: The Cardinals lost several close games last year, in a disappointing year that probably should have resulted in a playoff berth. Instead, Plains was done after week nine. Will the heartbreak of missing out on the playoffs add fuel to the fire? The Cardinals have a lot of skill all over the place.
5. North Mac: The Panthers are coming off its first state semifinal appearance in school history, but are led by first year head coach, Dan Carlson. What will be the identity of the Panthers under the rookie head coach? Well, the Panthers lines remain towering, but almost every key scoring contributor on the offensive side of the ball is gone.
6. Auburn: Unlike North Mac, Auburn’s line doesn’t have much size, but unlike the No. 5 ranked Panthers, the Trojans have a lot of offensive talent. This Auburn team might not have a lot of size, but they’ve got the potential to light up the scoreboard offensively.
7. New Berlin: This is how stacked the Sangamo is this year. New Berlin has the makings of a quality playoff team, but still come in at No. 7. The Pretzels’ success will depend on how quickly Casey Bixby can develop at quarterback.
8. PORTA: Interesting week one storyline: Two first year head coaches face off as Josh Pritchard’s PORTA Bluejays host Dan Carlson and North Mac. The two rookie head coaches played together in high school at Triad.
9. Pittsfield: The Saukees want some love! How can they receive that? Surprise the conference and tally some upsets.
10. Riverton: We counted under 30 players at Riverton’s practice last week. Depth will be an issue for the Hawks.