Rolling Meadows, Hersey favored again in MSL East
Margin of victory was an impressive statistic last season for Rolling Meadows.
Over the course of the regular season, the Mustangs won eight of their nine games by an average of 37.5 points per game en route to their sixth Mid-Suburban East conference championship in the last seven years.
The one and only game that was close during the regular season was the Mustangs' Week 8 game against rival Hersey. That was a 38-35 win.
"That was a great game against Hersey late in the season," Rolling Meadows coach Matt Mishler said. "We needed a game like that. We had so many games before that where our starters were out by halftime. That was a really close game."
Rolling Meadows finished last season with a 10-1 record, 5-0 in the MSL East. Hersey was 9-2, 4-1 in the league.
Both Rolling Meadows and Hersey advanced two rounds in the state playoffs.
Once again, it would appear that the Mid-Suburban East conference championship will likely have to pass through Rolling Meadows, and Hersey too. They again seem to be the favorites for a league title.
"I think all games in the East, they have a rivalry feel in some shape or form," Hersey coach Joe Pardun said. "With Rolling Meadows, we have a great rivalry. Matt (Mishler) and I am the same age. We've known each other in the district for a long time. Last year, when we played, it was such a good game, a close game, but it is a healthy rivalry. We're not sitting here saying, 'Oh, we hate Rolling Meadows because they're our rival.' There's a respect there and we really look at playing them as a measurement of ourself against a really consistent and quality program."
Rolling Meadows boasts the return of 10 starters, including offensive lineman Nate Pedraza, a 6-foot-3, 245-pound right tackle who has committed to Ball State and also plays defensive end.
Hersey, which returns 13 of 22 starters, will be led by quarterback Jordan Hansen, who has college offers from Northern Illinois, Illinois State, Eastern Illinois and North Dakota State. Hansen played multiple positions last year on both offense and defense, but will play exclusively at quarterback this year.
Two other teams in the MSL East, Buffalo Grove and Prospect, also made the 2018 playoffs, meaning that four of six conference teams qualified for the postseason last year.
Both Buffalo Grove and Prospect finished 5-5, getting to the first round of the playoffs after 5-4 regular seasons and 2-3 marks in the MSL East.
"Obviously, there's always Rolling Meadows and Hersey," Buffalo Grove coach Jeff Vlk said. "But I also think that Prospect is a team that is on the rise. I think Prospect will be a force to be reckoned with."
Last season, Buffalo Grove was decimated by injuries but managed to defeat Prospect. Outside of Rolling Meadows and Hersey, the Bison lost only to Wheeling in the MSL East.
"I think Buffalo Grove is also on the rise," Prospect coach Dan DeBoeuf said, returning the sentiments of Vlk. "I also think Wheeling had some nice players last year, and Elk Grove is getting better. It's a tough conference."
The Prospect offense will be centered around running back Luke Zardzin, an all-conference pick last season as a sophomore. He ran for more than 700 yards and 8 touchdowns.
Buffalo Grove has a new quarterback in Mark Antonetti, last year's backup. He is an all-conference baseball player.
Wheeling is trying to go with 22 different starters, with no crossover between offense and defense, to better preserve its players. And Elk Grove is trying to turn the corner after winning just three games in the last eight years.