Conference: Big Northern (East)
Ideally, Burlington Central coach Rich Crabel envisions starting just one player both ways.
Ideally, Rockets fans will witness senior running back/defensive back Trevor Davison burst from whatever backfield he's situated in.
"He looks really good. He's stronger. He's more physical," Crabel said. "He's given our defense all kinds of problems. So I guess that's good and bad."
Central showed a penchant for playing close games in the middle of last season, pointing to close defeats to Harvard and Richmond-Burton as key blows in their bid for the program's first playoff berth since 2011.
With most Big Northern East offenses predicated on the running game, BC counters with a promising antidote: a trio of speedy, experienced linebackers in seniors Cole Roach, Craig Kein and Anton Christensen. Roach and Kein are three-year starters, with Roach a returning all-conference selection.
Up front, Charle Sanders heads the returnees among an always-bustling defensive line group, with BC rotating six to eight linemen each game. Nimble defense back Johnny Frederickson, another senior, looks to spark the secondary.
Apart from Davison, who was part of last season's running back rotation, much of the skill position players will be new. In the quarterback race, Crabel gave the early nod to junior Robert Doumont, who missed last season with a shoulder injury but played the position for the freshman team in 2012. Classmate Adam Skirmont will serve as backup while starting as a defensive back.
Crabel and his staff "shortened the learning curve" for first-time senior participant Brenden Bushy, a 6-foot-5 receiver who has played other sports at the school. The offensive line returns four starters – including seniors Joe Vitraelli, Matt Overstreet and Zach Garbacz – but several newcomers created a spirited camp competition.
– Kevin Druley, firstname.lastname@example.org
Coach: Rich Crabel (16-11, fourth season)
2013 record: 4-5, 3-3 Big Northern East.
Fast fact: Central's 2013 losses came by margins of 34, 40, four, 43 and one point. The team's four losses in 2012 came by no fewer than eight points.
Special teams spotlight: Field position won't come easy for Central. "We don't really have a big-time leg for a kicker or anything like that," Crabel said.
Bottom line: The Rockets return talent at running back and linebacker, usually a recipe for success in a ground attack-intensive conference. Now it's about harnessing a way to win the close ones.
Memory banked: "My sophomore year [on the sophomore team], it was late in the game and we were playing North Boone. I had a couple catches in that drive and it was in the last minute, and I had the go-ahead touchdown where we ended up winning the game." – Ryan Anderson, Sr., WR/TE
Aug. 29 @ Hampshire 7:15 p.m.Sept. 5 @ Dixon 7 p.m.Sept. 12 North Boone 7 p.m.Sept. 19 @ Harvard 7 p.m.Sept. 26 Genoa-Kingston 5 p.m.Oct. 3 @ Marengo 7 p.m.Oct. 10 Richmond-Burton 7 p.m.Oct. 17 Johnsburg 7 p.m.Oct. 24 @ Rockford Christian 7 p.m.
Marquee matchup: Oct. 10, vs. Richmond-Burton. The Rocket-on-Rocket rivalry again went R-B's way in 2013, although BC took the perennial powers to overtime in a frustrating finish. A return to the postseason would feel all the better if Central marks this one with a 'W.'
Aug. 30 Hampshire L, 41-7Sept. 6 Stillman Valley L, 40-0Sept. 13 Rockford Christian W, 34-0Sept. 20 Harvard L, 17-13Sept. 27 Genoa-Kingston L, 43-0Oct. 4 Marengo W, 27-0Oct. 11 Richmond-Burton L, 14-13 (OT)Oct. 18 Rock Falls W, 41-24Oct. 25 North Boone W, 28-14