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D-1 gridders anticipate future success and local races heat up on the hardwood

Peoria's three football stars who sailed off to play Division One football a year ago now look forward to their second seasons with great excitement. As previously reported, Richwoods' Kendrick Foster won Scout team player of the year while red shirting his frosh season at Illinois and looks to be a vital cog in the Illini's 2014 campaign. The same can be said for Manual's Logan Tuley-Tillman. Logan also red shirted his first year at Michigan and should be greatly excited to play for the new offensive coordinator in Ann Arbor, Doug Nussmeier from Alabama. Central's Josh Augusta did get a chance to contribute this past year at Missouri and that he did with a flourish. Josh appeared in each of the Tigers' 14 games and got in on a tackle in the Cotton Bowl while receiving accolades on the national broadcast.

Shifting gears to the basketball court, it appears this will be an interesting year for local teams as the so called conference favorites have found some tough sledding thus far. Manual was heavily favored in the Mid State 6, but Notre Dame currently sits on top of the standings having already downed the Rams in their first meeting. Richwoods is right on their tails and is an interesting team to keep an eye on. The Knights are youthful, starting several talented sophomores, including football star Damion Gillespie. Central appears to be in a rebuilding mode, but the Lions can never be counted out come March.

The consensus Mid Illini favorite was Limestone, fresh off their appearance at the 2013 Class 3A finals at Carver Arena. The Rockets still appear strong, but have stubbed their toe a couple of times thus far. Metamora looks to be the other top team, having stormed out to an impressive 11-1 record to date.

And, from up north, Curie, Simeon and Whitney Young were everybody's top picks prior to the season, but each has suffered losses to quality, national level competition and the pollsters have thus downgraded their current ranks. Other teams have taken turns at the top of the Chicagoland polls, only to fall shortly thereafter. Two of the less talked about squads that have been impressive and should be on everybody's March radar are Aurora West and Bogan. At the end of the day, however, the three traditional power teams referenced above will have the biggest targets on their chests come tourney time.