Will this be the year a postseason football beast re-emerges from the Mid-Suburban East?
No one has made it beyond the second round of the playoffs since 2006 when Prospect made the Class 7A semifinals and Rolling Meadows reached the quarterfinals.
Defending East champion Meadows and Prospect figure to be factors in the race again. But Elk Grove has 16 starters back from a team that just missed the 7A quarterfinals.
Buffalo Grove also hopes to take the next step after going 5-4 but not having enough playoff points to make the 256-team field.
"This is one of the few years, and of all the years I've been in the East I usually don't hear much, where you hear how good this team is and that team is," said Prospect coach Brent Pearlman. "The better the East, the better for us. I hope the East is the most competitive it's been the last 12 years.
"I hear everybody is good and I think that's when teams have the potential of being their best."
Elk Grove hopes this is its best team since the 2004 7A quarterfinalist and East champ won its first 11 games. There are multiple threats all over the field in quarterback-safety Nick Meyer, linebacker-receiver Joey Bishoff, safety-receiver Eddie Stahl and two-way lineman Martin Kazecki.
"I coached a lot of those kids and know how good they are," said third-year BG coach and former Elk Grove offensive coordinator Jim Farrell. "Nick is a fierce competitor and can do a lot of things with the football and he's got a lot of weapons around him."
But Meadows shut down the Grenadiers and a lot of other attacks last year with the MSL's best defense. Colin Buscarini, Sean Connor and Andrew Peters return at linebacker and an experienced offensive line leads the way for running back Garrett Peterson.
"Rolling Meadows on paper definitely has to be the best in the division with their linebackers," said Elk Grove coach Brian Doll.
"I'd be disappointed if we're not one of the two teams playing at the end," said Meadows coach Doug Millsaps, whose team finishes with Elk Grove. "I really believe we're good enough to compete for it."
Prospect still has plenty of weapons in multithreat Peter Bonahoom and quarterback Steve Dazzo. Improvement defensively will be the key.
BG has a solid senior group led by quarterback Mike Garrity, linebacker-running back Tyler Juckett and lineman Joe Damisch. Its four losses last year were by 19 total points.
Hersey hopes to parlay the enthusiasm and energy from new coach Dragan Teonic into more success after winning two games the last three years. Two-way lineman Tom Sutrinaitis and safety Taylor Beaulieu have been big parts of the transition.
Wheeling looks to rebound from a 2-7 finish after two consecutive playoff trips. Junior Tyler Brady returns at quarterback and linebacker-offensive lineman Chris Johnson enters his third varsity season as a starter.
Meadows 5-0 7-3
Prospect 3-2 8-3
Elk Grove 3-2 7-4
Buffalo Grove 3-2 5-4
Hersey 1-4 1-8
Wheeling 0-5 2-7
2010 predicted order of finish: 1. Elk Grove, 2. Rolling Meadows, 3. Prospect, 4. Buffalo Grove, 5. Hersey, 6. Wheeling.