My Facebook status Wednesday evening said it all.
I started working in the newspaper business 37 years ago. While some might think the beginning of another high school sports year would be routine and boring for me by now, there's still something about producing the first football edition of the season that gets me going.
Maybe it's the challenge of learning all the new names. Maybe it's the anticipation that comes with any new season. Maybe it's just the simple fact that previewing a new season and anticipating Opening Night of high school football is still one of the highlights of anyone who cares anything about high school sports.
And it's here again. Football, high school style, 2012.
In reading and editing the gobs and gobs of information Fox Valley football guru Jerry Fitzpatrick has provided on the 13 football playing schools in the Daily Herald's Fox Valley coverage area that appear in this edition, the theme that's always front and center on Opening Night is in the middle of the stage again -- optimism.
I made some Cliff's Notes while reading through each school's preview and share those with you today. But before I do, I also suggest that if you haven't yet taken advantage of the Daily Herald's Subscriber Total Access program, now would be the perfect time to do so. Not only will you get localized coverage like no other medium provides in our print product, but you'll also get full access to dailyherald.com and to football.dailyherald.com, the latter of which is the most comprehensive high school football website in the Chicago area, bar none. And some technical tweaks have allowed us the ability to be much more timely on Football Focus this season, so you'll have the best of both our websites rockin' at the same time.
So sign up now before it's too late to catch the season from start to finish.
And here's a quick trip around the Fox Valley.
•At Bartlett, don't expect to see the football thrown as much as it has been in the past few years. Hawks' coach Tom Meaney, whose team went 7-3 and made the playoffs again last year, has made it clear the smashmouth game will be back this season and truth be told, Bartlett's best success since the school opened has come when the Hawks just shove the football down their opponents' throats.
•Burlington Central coach Rich Crabel has made it very clear he and his staff aren't concerned about who the Rockets don't have this season as opposed to who they do have. One player they have, senior Ryan Ritchie, is one of the best quarterbacks around and if BC can hold its own against a tough nonconference schedule another playoff appearance could be in the cards.
•Cary-Grove has gone two years without a Fox Valley Conference Valley Division championship. Enough, say the Trojans. With veteran quarterback Quinn Baker back at the controls, expect coach Brad Seaburg's second C-G team to be right in the thick of things all season.
•Crystal Lake South had the furthest playoff run of any area team last season and even though the Gators appear to be awfully young this season, there's still talent aplenty around Ken Bruhn Field. A Week 3 matchup at home against Cary-Grove will go a long way in predicting how important the Week 9 finale at home against Prairie Ridge will be.
•Is this the year Dundee-Crown snaps the streak? The Chargers have an awfully good chance of putting 26 straight games of futility behind them when they host Elgin tonight. The Maroons are low on numbers and you can bet D-C coach Vito Andriola has his kids sky high with emotion for tonight's opener. The schedule is tough as always, but D-C is in a better position to win this year than it has been the past few campaigns.
•Elgin's numbers are as low as they've been in years -- only 24 varsity players for the Maroons this fall and that's a shame. But we do know this about Elgin coach Dave Bierman -- he works as hard as anyone and he'll get the most out of what he has. Keep an eye on junior QB Ryan Sitter. He's an athlete.
•Hampshire got its feet wet in the Fox Valley Conference for the first time last year and now, with a record number of players out for the program, the Whip-Purs are hoping to turn around last year's 1-8 season and get some more wins on the board. Are the Whips playoff contenders, or even division contenders? Maybe not, but they should compete better this year. A good test will be in the home season opener tonight against rival Burlington Central (sorry, I still can't accept Central and Hampshire being in different conferences).
• The program that clearly got the most publicity during the offseason was Huntley, and if new Red Raiders' coach John Hart can have the success here he had in Indiana, things are definitely looking up for the Raiders. The administration and boosters have put a lot of faith in Hart's experience and reputation and now it's up to his team to deliver. Let's remember that Huntley was 2-7 last year and Rome was not built in a day.
•Larkin yearns for a trip back to the playoffs, but the Royals won't have an easy road with a relatively young team. Watch lineman Alex Schabert, though. All indications are that this kid can play some big-time football.
•The numbers are also thin at St. Edward but another hard working staff led by coach Mike Rolando believe the Green Wave can get 5 wins and get back to the playoffs for the third time in 4 years. Looks like Devontae Elam is a player to watch and anytime you don't have to play Montini you have to have some hope.
•At South Elgin, reports are this could be one of coach Dale Schabert's fastest teams. And if Schabert has speed to work with and a quarterback who can hit his targets, the air show could be on. Some of the most exciting football around is when Dale Schabert has explosive and speedy offensive weapons.
•Finally, in alphabetical order, comes Streamwood. The Sabres made a nice run to the playoffs last year and coach Cal Cummins knows how to win. With NIU recruit Blake Holder featured in the offense this season again, expect Streamwood to challenge for at least a 10th week of football this season.
So that's the tour. It's Opening Night. Fasten the set belts and enjoy the ride with us.