The Green Bay Southwest football team started last season with expectations of competing for the Fox River Classic Conference championship.
The Trojans began conference play by traveling to Manitowoc in Week 2 and promptly lost 27-7 to the eventual league champions. It was a game they never were in, and coupled with a loss to Pulaski two weeks later, their conference hopes quickly were dashed.
Southwest will get an opportunity for revenge out of the gate tonight when it hosts the Ships at 7 p.m. The Trojans again are one of the favorites in the 12-team FRCC after falling one win short of reaching the WIAA Division 2 state title game in 2011.
The program has not won a conference championship since 1975, when it was a member of the Fox River Valley Conference.
The Bay Conference, meanwhile, still has a team that must be considered the overwhelming favorite until proven otherwise. After going 28-0 and winning D3 state championships the last two seasons, it’s difficult for anyone to pick against West De Pere winning the nine-team Bay.
The Phantoms, who open tonight with a nonconference game at Appleton Xavier, again appear strong on defense. If senior quarterback Matt DeBaker can have early success and lead the offense in the opening few weeks, the combination could be difficult to overcome.
Every league coach knows beating West De Pere is a significant challenge. The Phantoms haven’t lost a conference game since Week 1 in 2009, when they were beaten by Seymour.
Still, there will be tests along the way. Luxemburg-Casco, Marinette and Seymour are three area teams from the conference that made the playoffs last season, and all three appear to have legitimate postseason hopes again.
“You have to start any conversation about the top of our league with West De Pere,” Seymour coach Matt Molle said. “They have proven to be consistently there each year and have the well-deserved reputation of being a tough team to beat.”
The same could be said about Kewaunee and Wrightstown in the Olympian/Packerland-Large.
The teams have combined to win the last two state titles in D4, and both are expected to compete for the league championship this season along with teams such as Sturgeon Bay, Brillion and Valders.
Kewaunee plays at Wrightstown tonight to start what could be a heated and tight race for the top spot.
“I’m excited about the talent we have returning,” Wrightstown co-coach Steve Klister said. “We are hoping for another solid season.”