Ingram Publishing

By Al Zipsie

The Northwestern Illinois Conference (NUIC) has proved to be the toughest small school football Conference in the state.

This year will be no exception. The larger schools, the NUIC Northwest will be loaded again. The favorite to win the 1AState Championship again is Forreston. Some other teams in the Northwest hope to challenge in Lena-Winslow, Eastland/PearlCity and Dakota. Aquin will be the favorite to win the Upstate.
Opening week games Friday, August 25.
NUIC Northwest.
Galena at Dakota.
Eastland/Pearl City at East Dubuque.
Forreston at Pecatonica.
West Carroll at Lena-Winslow.
NUIC Upstate.
Ashton/Franklin Center at River Ridge.
Orangeville at Polo.
Stockton at Warren.
Milledgeville at Amboy/LaMoille.
Non League.
Kirkland Hiawatha at Aquin.
Stateline Sports Hub. Pre-season rankings.
1. Forreston. Northwest.
2. Lena-Winslow. Northwest.
3. Aquin. Upstate.
4. Eastland/Pearl City. Northwest.
5. Dakota. Northwest.
6. East Dubuque. Northwest.
7. West Carroll. Northwest.
8. Stockton. Upstate.
9. Polo. Upstate.
10. Orangeville. Upstate.
11. Milledgeville. Upstate.
12. Amboy/LaMoille. Northwest.
13. Durand/Pecatonica. Northwest.
14. Galena. Northwest.
15. River Ridge. Upstate.
16. Warren. Upstate.
17. Ashton/Franklin Center. Upstate.
Forreston. Last years record. 14-0. Coach Denny Diduch.
They hope to defend their State title and return many starters, including the entire offensive backfield. Back are running backs A.J Christensen, Gavin Fuchs and Matt Akins and quarterback Hunter Daws. Sam Barkalow, who will play at Western Illinois returns at linebacker and tight end. The line will be solid with Michael Singley, Mitchel Heinz and Brayden Walton.
Forreston will be tested in weeks two through five playing Lena-Winslow, Dakota, E/PC and Aquin. It won't be an easy task to run the tables again this season.
Lena-Winslow. Last years record. 9-3. Coach Ric Arand.
They hope to challenge Forreston. Last year they gave the Cardinals the closest game in the regular season, a 13-7 loss in week seven. But, suffered a 44-7 loss to Forreston in the quarterfinals of the playoffs.They play at Forreston in week two this season.
Senior multi-sports standout athlete Rahveon Valentine will be explosive at running back. The Panthers also have a trio of talented lineman in Ian Kuehl, Issiah Bruce and Michael Jones.
Eastland/Pearl City. Last years record. 8-2. Coach Randy Asche.
The coaches son, monster Peyton Asche, 6 foot 7, 320 pounds, a senior who will play at Illinois State next year. He will be one of the top offensive and defensive lineman in the state. They also have running back juniors Jayden and Jarod Kempel and Brock and Braden Smargiassi. Joining Asche are lineman Brian Brenner and sophomore powerlifter Eli Dertz.
Dakota. Last years record. 7-4. Coach Joe Free.
The Indians in the second year under Free hope to again be a state title contender.
Senior Maverick McPeek, an all state honorable mention offensive lineman returns to anchor the trenches on both sides of the line. Dakota has lots of size and will be a power team. Among the running backs is Mason Peters and they have solid tight ends in Carter Drake and Brock Duncan. All three will join McPeek in what should be a strong defense. Kyle Bordner a senior will step in at quarterback. In the home opener Friday with Galena they will play their first game with new bleachers, scoreboard and press box.
East Dubuque. Last years record 4-5. Coach Terry Breitbach.
Last year they began the season 4-1. But, lost the last four games of the season finishing 4-5 and not making the playoffs.
This year that tougher part of the schedule is more loaded towards the front of the schedule. They open with E/PC and face Lena-Winslow and Dakota in weeks three and four.
Despite being in the rugged Northwest, they have plenty of talent back and could surprise this year. Returning is the coaches son, Jon Breitbach at quarterback with a good arm. They have receivers Lane Boyer and Andy Rowe. And solid lineman Austin Middendorf, Chris Strauser and Michael Luchterhand and linebackers Jack Tressel and Jackson Bowman.
West Carroll. Last years record 4-5. Coach Matthew Leitzen.
On the varsity for the fourth year are the senior Plattenberger senior twins, Kody at quarterback and Kaleb, running back. They also have returning all conference linebacker Devon Murray.
Durand/Pecatonica. Last years record. Both Durand and Pecatonica were 0-9. Coach Tyler Hoffman.
In the first year of the Coop they have good numbers. Last year both schools were 0-9 and a combined 0-18. Former Pecatonica stand out Hoffman is the new coach. He was part of a youth program of both schools that had success. Du/Pec will have to face the defending state champion Forreston in the season opener at Pecatonica Friday. They are in the tough Northwest of the NUIC, but the Rivermen have new hope with the Coop. They have Alex Hoffman and running backs Maverick Seaton and Griffin Mulcahy.
Amboy/LaMoille. Last years record 3-6. Coach Gary Jones.
They hope to improve after struggling in their first season in the NUIC. Justin Hart will be the quarterback.
Galena. Last years record 2-7. Coach Ed Freed.
The Pirates last year suffered through their first losing season since 2004.
Back are quarterback Mickey Lorento and running back Colton Bauer.
Aquin. Last years record 10-2. Coach Troy Barr.
Many in the skilled positions return from last years team that made it to the quarterfinals. Plenty of talent is back in quarterback Jonah Diemer, receivers Zac Cummings and Bryce Carlson and running back/linebacker Wes Luedeking and running back/nose guard Cole Stykel. The drawback is not a lot of size and depth.
Stockton. Last years record 9-1. Coach Jesse Snyder.
Snyder who played at Lena-Winslow takes over as the new coach. They have a huge void with the graduation of the NUIC Upstate MVP in quarterback Hayden Fox and several others. Returning is running back Brian Booth.
Polo. Last years record 6-4. Coach Jeff Bumsted.
The Marcos will be led by quarterback Braiden Soltow and running back Reid Taylor.
Orangeville. Last years record 4-5. Coach Jay Doyle.
They open this year with Polo, the team that knocked them out of a playoff berth in the last week of the regular season. They are looking for their first winning season since 2010. They have a talented duo in quarterback Austin Guy and receiver Caden Getz and linebacker Colt Oaks and some promising sophomore running backs. They do lack a lot of size.
Milledgeville. Last years record 5-5. Coach Jason Wroble.
They have good athletes Nate Rahn and Cade Schave to hope to make the playoffs again.
River Ridge. Last years record 2-7. Coach Doug Nicholas.
Returning are quarterback Jacob Speer and running back Ben Crist.
Warren. Last years record 2-7. Coach Jared McNutt.
They have only ten juniors and seniors listed on the roster. They do have lineman Kolton Kaiser.
Ashton/Franklin Center. Last years record. 2-7. Coach Brad Winterland.
Like Warren they are low on numbers. They are led by quarterback/linebacker Adam Hart.