The AVCTL Division I has a new look, but several familiar faces will once again look to establish dominance in the league's top division.
The Salthawks bring a 22-game winning streak into the 2010 season as the six-time defending state champion. Hutch will have to replace every skill position player and offensive linemen except for slot running back Hunter Stuckey which likely means the team will hit a road bump or two along the way this year. The team returns four starters to the defensive side of ball, along with a core group of seniors ready to lead. Despite the loss of an extremely talented and productive senior class, don’t expect too much of a drop-off for a powerful program that reloads year in and year out and is ranked 18th in the Southwest Region, which is comprised of six states including Texas, according to ESPN.
2. Salina Central
The Mustangs bring back a core group of starters to a squad that went 6-3 last year. Six players return to the offense including senior Cale Sharp who has rushed for over 1,000 yards in each of the past two seasons. Shay Wooten will move to quarterback for his senior season, providing a dual-threat option for Central. Where the Mustangs will excel is on defense where they return seven starters including a pair of two-year starters on the line and three defensive backs. According to coach Mike Hall, the defensive unit will have no evident weaknesses this season. Central travels to Derby and Hutch this year, but will play all three of its district games in Salina to close the regular season.
The Panthers offense will be extremely talented this year with senior quarterback Tyler Harrison under center. As a junior, he passed for over 1,400 yards. Derby will have a more balanced attack this year as the unit returns five starters to the offensive line which will open up the running game. The defensive side of the ball will be a little spotty as several newcomers will be called upon to make an impact. The Panthers offense will get a pair of major challenges in the first two weeks of the season against Hutch and Salina Central.
4. Salina South
After reaching the quarterfinals last year, Sam Sellers hopes to lead his team back to the playoffs in his first full season as coach. His squad is young this year with an offense led by sophomore running back Cody Busby paving the way. Busby ran for over 1,000 yards a year ago. The Cougars return three starters to each side of the ball, which raises several question marks for this young team. South has a strong group of veteran coaches though that should be able to get the team into playoff contention come district play.
The Railers make the move up to Division I a year after going 7-3 and making the playoffs. Newton will be young and inexperienced this year with just three players returning to the offensive side of the ball and four coming back on defense. The team has just 13 incoming seniors off of last years roster, so several new faces will be present on the field this year. A tough division though should have Newton battle-tested for their district opponents: Emporia, Valley Center and McPherson.
The Eagles have made the playoffs two of the past three seasons, but with losing records both times. Maize returns six offensive starters which will give the team some direction this season. Running backs Scott Hendricks and Ty Turner, who combined for over 1,000 yards a year ago, will lead the charge for the team this year. A tough schedule will keep the team honest though with games against Derby, Salina Central and Hutchinson in a four-game stretch starting in Week 3. Maize’s district is made up of WAC contenders Dodge City and Garden City and rival Goddard.
The Colts are coming off a one-win season in head coach Mike Schartz first year and are looking for new direction in a new division. Unfortunately for Campus, it’s one of the toughest in the state. The team returns nine starters on offense and eight on defense, including their leading passer and rusher from a year ago. Campus’ defense gave up an average of 30 points per game last year but with eight players coming back on defense, Schartz says "expectations are high."
Must see games:
Rockhurst at Hutchinson, Sept. 3
Salina Central at Derby, Sept. 3
Hutchinson at Derby, Sept. 10
Salina Central at Hutchinson, Sept. 24
Salina Central at Salina South, Oct. 15
Bishop Carroll at Hutchinson, Oct. 29
How do you think the league will play out? Let me know your thoughts and leave a comment below.