Several times during the past decade, I’ve entered a prep football season feeling like I had a good idea how some of the local teams would fare.
Late in the summer of 2005, I could have told you Morris would be awfully good.
I don’t think I could quite have predicted the John Dergo game or much else about the way the Redskins rolled to a state title, but the title itself wouldn’t have surprised me.
Going into the 2007 season, I knew Coal City and Morris had a real shot at special seasons, and they advanced to the state semifinals and the state championship, respectively.
Conversely, when Seneca was struggling through its lowest points in the middle to late years of the last decade, I didn’t enter each season expecting a whole lot from the Irish.
Strong feelings about any of our local teams are eluding me as we count down the hours left before the 2013 season kicks off.
This was probably true entering the 2012 season as well, but I think it’s a real possibility we’ll have Coal City, Minooka, Morris and Seneca in the playoffs simultaneously for the first time since 2001.
The kicker is I could also see this season playing out the other way, with the area having only one or two playoff teams and none having any real success.
The team I probably have the strongest grasp on is Seneca.
On the heels of a 5-4 season – their best in over a decade – the Irish should be decent again.
Whether they’ll be better than just decent, and enjoy the spoils that come with it in the form of an elusive playoff berth, is something I can’t really decide.
Another team that doesn’t seem to have a terribly low floor is Coal City.
There’s enough offensive talent back to make the Coalers a favorite in the Interstate Eight Large once again.
But Coal City’s win total could fluctuate quite a bit depending on how a defense that returns just one starter performs.
I wouldn’t bet too heavily against coach Lenny Onsen’s ability to make the Coalers respectable on defense, but coming close to last season’s success on that side of the ball won’t be easy.
Then there’s Morris.
On one hand, T.J. Layne is the Redskins’ only returning starter.
Even when you’re talking about a state finalist, filling 22 or 23 spots, depending on how you look at it (Layne started some on defense), is an incredibly tall task.
On the other hand, we’re talking about Morris. If there is one school in the area that can rebuild extensively and get right back in the playoffs, it’s the Redskins; they’d be on my short list of teams best equipped to do so from the entire state.
As tough as it is to figure Morris out, I think Minooka is the most difficult team in the area to project.
Almost nothing would surprise me from the Indians. Given their brutal schedule (Morris and Providence, followed by seven Southwest Prairie games) and the impact talent they lost, I could see this being a tough year for the Indians.
If they can split or sweep their nonconference games and win all of the games they need to win in the SPC, they could very well return to the playoffs, and do so on a late-season roll.
I may not know for sure in what direction these four teams will go this season, but I can’t wait to find out.
The painting of the picture will begin Friday night.