With traditional "hell week" a thing of the past due to the IHSA's three hour practice restrictions, conference alignments put on hold, traditional powers facing the task of incorporating new faces while teams usually finishing below them have the experience and returning talent, the start of the local 2013 prep football season has a different look this year to be sure.
The merger of the Mid State 6 and Western Big 6 conferences has now been put on hold for a year due to a scheduling conflict which would result in an unbalanced league slate. So, the M-S 6 is back for one more year. Containing just the four Peoria schools, a conference champion will be crowned, but there will be no automatic playoff berth for the title winner as the IHSA requires there be six teams in a league to be entitled to same. They will all thus be considered independents for playoff berth purposes. Six wins will still guarantee a playoff spot. (www.pjstar.com)
The Richwoods Knights will have many new faces in new positions as they look ahead to a crucial opening showdown at Peoria Stadium against Peoria Notre Dame Friday night. Senior Max Berres will be back at the helm on offense under center and his backfield will feature Daejgon Love and Kiontre O'Neal. Both made their mark last year on defense and will get a chance to use their size and speed with the ball in their hands this year. Berres has shown the ability to throw the ball as well. Noah Cartwright is expected to be on the receiving end of many of Berres' tosses and Javeer Ross provides a speedy target with good size on the outside. The Knights will need some youth to step forward this season, but one thing is for sure, i.e. Coach Roland Brown will have them playing, hard disciplined football. Notre Dame's returning talent and their successful playoff run of a year ago has them loaded for bear this season and it is certain this game with the Knights has been circled on their calendar for quite some time.
Over in the Mid Illini conference, traditionally top teams Metamora and Washington will also be relying on new faces that will need to gain some quick experience. While these programs will still be strong, the top two teams in the league may well be Pekin and East Peoria. East Peoria has one of the better backs in the state in Michael Thompson and returning depth on the line. Pekin is loaded. With big, fast and strong lineman on both sides of the ball and talented quarterback Chase Poole along with state track champ and probable all state football player Cole Henderson running wild, the Dragons will be a formidable match up for anybody.
Although predicting just exactly which teams will be on top come season's end is a tough chore at present, certain constants are guaranteed to remain the same, i.e. the action will be hard fought, spirited and exciting. Good luck to all the teams.