When you go 9-0 in the regular season and finish deep in the playoffs with the most wins in school history in 2011, what does really mean for 2012?
Well, the Harper Creek coaches will tell you that it doesn’t mean much. And they will follow that by saying, every year is a new year and every roster is different.
That is what a good coach will always say, and we understand, that kind of response is needed to keep the team hungry.
But we in the media are more prone to hype, especially when it comes to preseason rankings.
So what it means for us is that 2012 starts right where 2011 left off – with Harper Creek as the No. 1 team in our E-10 poll.
The E-10 rankings are a list of the top 10 high school football teams in the area, regardless of size. For years, the Enquirer has been ranking the area football teams each season with the E-10 poll, giving our readers something to talk about each Friday in the fall.
The rankings are such that it is not only based on best record, but instead on how teams would match up if they had equal schedules. So a team with an 8-0 record, playing several teams with below .500 records, might still be ranked below a team that is 5-3 that has played a handful of playoff squads.
But in this case, the record does speak for itself.
Harper Creek went 9-0 in the regular season last year and finished 12-1, one win away from advancing to the state finals for the first time in school history.
“I don’t know if it’s any extra pressure (to be 9-0 last year), but our expectations are always high whether you are 9-0 or 5-4. But last year, was last year, we are moving on in a new direction,” Harper Creek coach Ed Greenman said. “It’s the time of year where you are excited because of your first football game, but you are always uneasy. You aren’t sure how your team will respond to those Friday night lights.”
The Beavers return a strong core of players from that team, including what is probably the strongest backfield in the area in three-year seniors Kasey Carson and Connor Bauserman. Both could get 1,000 yards this season and Carson could set the school career rushing record.
Harper Creek also has one of the few Division 1 prospects in the area as lineman Josh Bass has already accepted a scholarship offer from Eastern Michigan University.
“We have a lot of kids back, our JVs were successful, so yes, really no reason we can’t have a good year,” Greenman said. “The tandem of Connor and Kasey is going to be tough for any team to match, they are three-year kids, veterans that know what is expected of them. Plus we have Josh Bass, who Eastern Michigan thinks can play at the MAC level, so he should be able to play for us.”
Picking the No. 1 team was relatively easy for us, but picking No. 2 is where it became tough.
Two teams in the Kalamazoo Valley Association are expected to have big years and we think both Olivet and Pennfield will be strong in 2012.
But in the E-10, we see Olivet as being a step above.
With more returning bodies and some top-level talent, Olivet is No. 2 in our preseason E-10 poll.
Olivet went 7-2 in the regular season last year and advanced to the playoffs once again where the Eagles have been in the postseason in eight of the last nine years. Talking Division 1 talent, Olivet also has a player of that level on its roster as senior tackle Donnie Kyre has accepted a scholarship offer from Central Michigan University.
Olivet also returns All-KVA running back Nick Coolidge to power the Eagles running attack.
Pennfield might have to take a step down this year in the KVA and the E-10, based on lack of experience. But the Panthers won’t fall too far, which is why they are still near the top at No. 3.
Pennfield only has one returning starter back from last year’s team. But last year’s team was 9-0 and the strength of the program says the names might change, but the results don’t vary too much when it comes to the Panthers. Pennfield has made the playoffs every year since 1998 and it has had more than seven wins every season since 2007. So even though the Panthers are losing a lot off of an 11-1 team from a year ago, expect the wins to keep coming.
After a run of teams in the KVA, we will follow with a run of teams in the SMAC East as there might not be much that separates the next three teams when it comes to the standings.
In the end, they will each be able to prove where they should be ranked with their play on the field against each other, but for now, we see Lakeview, Marshall and Gull Lake as the next three teams in the E-10 poll, in that order.
Lakeview will bring in a new offense that has the Spartans excited and could make them more of a consistent threat throughout the season. With that as a backdrop, we think Lakeview will climb over the .500 mark and start working its way to the playoffs.
Marshall suffered through some injuries last year, but could have a bounce back season with one of the stronger running backs in the area in Tony Wimberly.
Gull Lake will be showing off its new field turf football field this season and the Blue Devils are in their second year under head coach Tim Hiller, a former standout quarterback at Western Michigan University. In its first year in the SMAC East, we are going to find out if Gull Lake can have the kind of success in its new league as it enjoyed in the Wolverine Conference.
A couple of small-school powers dot the bottom part of the E-10 rankings.
We have Climax-Scotts, with its perennial 10-win seasons, listed at No. 7 in our poll and Union City, coming off a 9-0 regular season, sitting at No. 8 – even though the Chargers are rebuilding.
And at No. 10, Colon could make some noise in Class D with 11 returning seniors who saw playing time last year – something even some of the Class A and Class B teams on this list can’t say.
You say, we skipped a spot? You’re right.
You might not think Battle Creek Central should be on this list after going 0-9 last season. But we feel the Bearcats are a sleeping giant and have the talent to turn things around this season. But we aren’t real sure yet, so we have BCC at No. 9.
So there’s the list.
We know everyone won’t agree with how we ranked this preseason E-10. Actually, we hope everyone doesn’t agree, because we put this list out each week to bring about discussion and get local fans excited about high school football.