If you were ranking the area football teams based on consistency, Lakeview would be the near the top with four straight seasons in the playoffs and three straight division titles.
Well, in this case, it’s not about what you’ve done in the past, but instead, what you can do this season. However, Lakeview is in the same position.
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The Spartans have size up front and game-breaking speed at the skill positions and that’s why Lakeivew comes in at the No. 1 spot in the first prep football E-10 rankings of the season.
The Enquirer’s E-10 rankings is an annual exercise in listing the top high school football teams in our readership area. The E-10 rankings are based on which teams are the best squads on the field, regardless of class size or schedule. That means a 9-0 team playing a softer schedule might be ranked behind a 7-2 squad playing against some of the big boys of high school football.
Lakeview has been one of those big boys in recent years, as mentioned above, as the Spartans have been one of the more consistent programs in the area. Lakeview is expecting that same kind of success in 2016 with a very experience backfield in Jay’Vion Settles and C.J. Foster running the ball – two of the more dynamic running backs in Battle Creek. Lakeview, which went 6-4 last year, also has an offensive line that features one of the better tight ends in the area in 6-3, 235-pound Michael Miller and several lineman hovering around the 300 mark.
Following Lakeview at the No. 2 spot, with a great argument for being the preseason No. 1 is Coldwater. The Cardinals were undefeated in the regular season last year, playing in the Interstate 8 Conference. Coldwater also advanced to the state semifinals in Division 3 last year to put together the best season in school history. Coldwater returns one of the most productive running backs in the area in Sam DeMeester and this group has its eyes on another long run in the postseason in 2016 – they will just have to start that run at No. 2 in our poll.
The team that fell just behind Coldwater in the I-8 last year is just behind the Cardinals in this ranking also, with Marshall coming in at No. 3. The Redhawks returned to the playoffs last year at 7-3 and had a high-powered running game. But many of the players behind that success have graduated as Marshall will look to fill in the holes. The Redhawks, however, should be able to keep their momentum going with a strong offensive line returning, featuring Ryan Westrick.
An example of looking at talent instead of last year’s record is our next team on this list as Battle Creek Central will look to improve on a 4-5 mark from a season ago. The Bearcats have a strong core of players, led by skill position standouts like Jackie Hampton and Austin McKinney, who have had success at the lower levels and they are looking to turn that into a possible playoff season this year on the varsity. We expect them to get there as they come in ranked No. 4 to start the season.
The first small-school power on this list, that may not have the strength of schedule the rest of the teams have, is Climax-Scotts. We like C-S at No. 5 in the ranking as the Panthers should be close to eight or nine wins again this year in the regular season after going 9-0 last year. Seniors drive the C-S program and the Panthers have a nice one to lead the way in running back Adam Schantz.
Playing against some solid teams in the Lansing area, we don’t see a lot of Olivet these days since the Eagles left the Kalamazoo Valley Association. However, Olivet is still a team we like to keep our eye on and has always had the knack of putting a good team on the field. The No. 6 team on our list has been to the playoffs in eight straight seasons, going 6-4 last year.
The No. 7-ranked team in the E-10 is Harper Creek as the Beavers could be poised to have a turnaround season with a roster that was thrown into the fire last year as a young team,finishing 3-6. Those players are all a year older now with experience at the varsity level and that could mean a jump in success on the scoreboard.
Sitting at eight is the only team on our list playing 8-man football with St. Philip joining the E-10 rankings. Yes, the Tigers play small schools and 8-man football, but St. Philip proved to be one of the best teams in the state doing that last year, making the state finals. The Tigers have nine seniors coming back from an undefeated 9-0 team in the regular season last year as this team knows how to win.
Another playoff team from a year ago comes in at No. 9 as Homer has continued to send out strong teams in recent years. The Trojans will look to keep its spot in the E-10 rankings throughout the year with a new head coach in Joe Brya, who is also a former head coach for Homer.
Rounding out the top 10 is a team that didn’t spend a lot of time in these rankings the past couple seasons as the Panthers have struggled with young rosters. Pennfield had seven sophomores up on the team last year from a talented class and that entire group will help the Panthers this year improve on a 2-7 mark from a season ago.
Contact Bill Broderick (269) 966-0678 or email@example.com . Follow him on Twitter @billbroderick
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