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Local gridiron season just around corner

In a month's time, gridiron season will be underway and the footballs will be flying for local prep teams and players. Practice begins well before that with changes in the wind.

The biggest change affecting this year will be the restrictions on pads, helmets and practice time in preseason practice instituted by the IHSA earlier this year. These have been put in place with an eye toward reducing concussions and other injuries. It will be interesting to see what results, if any, these rules changes will bear.

Early prognostications for the Peoria teams this year have Notre Dame and Richwoods as the early favorites. The Knights have an up and coming junior class that will be expected to fill many slots and should do so admirably. Notre Dame has possibly the best overall player in the area in Jake Hurst and returns many other stalwarts as well.

The Peoria teams will not be merging with the Western Big 6 as previously planned, but will still play those teams in 2014 as schedules were made in contemplation of the proposed coalition. Instead, former M-S 6 teams will merge with the Big 12 at the start of next year's campaign.

Three former Peoria players will look to make a bigger impact at their respective Division One schools this autumn. Josh Augusta from Central saw significant playing time last year for the Missouri Tigers and should be an anchor on the line this season. Kendrick Foster of Richwoods (RB-Illinois) and Logan Tuley-Tillman of Manual (OL-Michigan) are both listed as either third or fourth on preseason depth charts at their respective schools which gives each a chance to move up and make an impact.

Lastly, in basketball news, the IHSA is currently in the bidding process for the host site of the boys tournaments in March. Peoria is, of course, hoping to retain the tourney, but Champaign-Urbana is making a strong push as well to return it to the revamped State Farm Center at the University of Illinois. There is also talk of a bid or two from the Chicago area, Hoffman Estates specifically, to host the larger schools only.