It's getting to the point you can measure the success of Tri-Cities area football by the food on your plate.
If recent history is any indication, the season is going to start when we're enjoying burgers and brats from a final summer barbecue and end eating turkey leftovers Thanksgiving weekend.
As another season of high school football kicks off Wednesday, the expectations are once again high.
When we left off with the local football scene last November, Aurora Christian was putting the finishing touches on its second straight state championship. Don Beebe's squad dominated Tolono Unity 42-12 to win the Class 3A state championship at Memorial Stadium.
The Eagles are the latest in a tremendous stretch of success for the area teams. Not only are schools winning conference championships and putting together impressive playoff streaks, they have proven they can play with the best of the best on the state level, with Batavia, St. Francis, Marmion and Geneva joining Aurora Christian in reaching state title games in Champaign within the last seven years.
That list doesn't even include Kaneland, which has come agonizingly close multiple times in that recent span after winning state titles in 1997 and 1998.
Will one of those programs -- or someone else -- add to the success in 2013? The answers begin Wednesday when teams return to the practice fields gearing up for the first night of Friday night lights on Aug. 30. If someone can add to those state-bound teams this fall, they will have a shorter trip with the championship games moving to Huskie Stadium in DeKalb.
As usual, there's no shortage of storylines to follow:
• Kaneland brings a 28-game regular season winning streak into its season opener against Chicago Brooks. The Knights might have been a little disappointed with the way last season ended in a second-round playoff loss, but that was the only setback in a 10-1 season that included a third straight 9-0 regular season and another Northern Illinois Big XII East championship.
The Knights have plenty of returning firepower led by three-year starters at quarterback, Drew David, and running back, Jesse Balluff.
• Aurora Christian has to replace three stalwarts who earned scholarships to Northern Illinois: Joel Bouagnon, Chad Beebe and last year's all-area captain Brandon Mayes. The Eagles will turn to junior Austin Bray who takes over at quarterback and stands 6-foot-3 looking for receivers like Noah Roberts and Brandon Walgren.
• Batavia can match Kaneland at a couple levels. The Bulldogs also are coming off a 9-0 regular season, also suffered an early playoff exit, and also have a tremendous amount of returning talent including Micah Coffey, Anthony Thielk, Anthony Scaccia and James Millette.
In addition to those three programs -- all of whom spent most of 2012 ranked near the top of their respective class in the state rankings -- Aurora Central Catholic will be bidding for a second straight playoff appearance after ending a 13-year drought last fall. St. Charles East also seeks a return trip to the playoffs and features one of the most exciting players in the area in senior wide receiver Brannon Barry while across town Rob Pomazak takes over for Mark Gould who was the only coach St. Charles North has had. Pomazak's first game will be at the school he came from, Elk Grove.
Nate Eimer has Quintez Jones back at quarterback as West Aurora tries to follow Aurora Central's lead from a year ago in ending a long playoff absence. For the Blackhawks it dates back to 1994.
Geneva and Marmion also missed the playoffs a year ago, though that was the exception to the rule for the Vikings and Cadets. Getting better luck with health, like the return of quarterback Daniel Santacaterina, would be a good start for the Vikings, while coach Dan Thorpe at Marmion is wary of a tough schedule but optimistic with what he's seen from Brock Krueger, Zach Siewec, Mike Montalbano, Sammy Breen, Jordan Glasgow, Luke Juriga, John Gauthier, Tyler Eberth, Seth Sevenich and sophomore Lucas Warren.
Follow John Lemon on Twitter @jlemonDH.