That has been the case prior to the past several seasons and this year is no different. In a preseason poll of Northern 4A coaches, conducted last week, Reed and McQueen garnered the most points and accounted for 10 of the 11 first-place votes.
Reed finished first in the coaches’ balloting, racking up 117 points and taking home seven first-place votes. McQueen, the defending Northern 4A champion and state runner-up, tallied 108 points and grabbed three first-place votes.
“I’d be lying if said I was surprised, but honestly, it really doesn’t change anything,” Reed coach Ernie Howren said. “We’ll go in week in and week and try to win a football game. The ranking won’t affect how we go about trying to win.
“Being picked first is more of a compliment to our kids. The kids have put themselves in a good situation. For coaches and sportswriters, the guys who have watched day in and day, to take notice, I appreciate it for our kids. That’s pretty cool.”
Reed was picked first or second in every poll while McQueen was first in three, second in three and third in five.
“McQueen and Reed, in recent history, are the two teams to beat,” Bishop Manogue coach Paul Mills said. “They have the student bodies to support reloading and they have good coaching staffs that do a good job.”
While the two perennial regional powers both deserve plenty of respect, more than a few local coaches see Reed as the clear-cut favorite.
“Reed is returning some really good players up front. They’re solid,” Douglas coach Mike Rippee said. “Coach Howren does a great job developing kids and putting them in the right spots. They’re always able to find a quarterback that has skills and can run their system. Guys buy into their program. They play with a lot of confidence.”
Reno coach Dan Avansino had similar sentiments.
“Reed has some good returning seniors and a good junior class,” the Huskies coach said. “Just knowing their roster, they’ve got some good guys.”
Carson beat Reed in a regional semifinal last year before losing to McQueen in the North title tilt. The Senators return an all-state running back candidate in senior Dylan Sawyers. Given their deep playoff run of a year ago and Sawyers’ return, many believe they should be able to compete at a very high level again this fall.
The Senators finished third in polling with 97 points.
“Reed and McQueen are good and I think Carson should be right up there too,” Galena coach Steve Struzyk said. “The top half of the league should be a good battle. It’s early of course but that’s what I see from paper, looking at size and depth.”
Manogue (83 points), Spanish Springs (74) and Douglas (73) locked up the fourth, fifth and sixth spots in the preseason poll. Two coaches picked Spanish Springs as a darkhorse team to possibly make a deep playoff run and shake up the standings a bit when all is said and done.
“That’s where I see Spanish Springs,” McQueen coach Jim Snelling said. “They have made it to the playoffs the last couple years, but have not gotten past the first round. They gave Carson all it wanted in the first round last year. It wouldn’t surprise me if they had a really good season.”
North Valleys coach Ty Gregg echoed those thoughts.
“I think the darkhorse is Spanish Springs,” Gregg said. “We saw them at camp and they are a very big, physical football team. They are going to wear some people down. I’m impressed with what (coach) Scott Hare has going on there. They are a team that will be in the mix.”
Hare would probably like to fly under the radar, but he too believes his squad will open some eyes during the fall campaign.
“I definitely think we have all the pieces,” Hare said. “We have to overcome Reed. They’ve had our number and they’re really good. At this point in time we need to go from good to great. We have that potential, but there are no guarantees. We need to quit talking about potential and start doing it.”
Galena and Reno nabbed the seventh and eighth slot in the coaches’ poll with 51 and 45 points respectively. The top eight teams at the conclusion of Northern 4A League play advance into the regional playoffs.
Damonte and Hug both tallied 27 points while North Valleys rounded out the polling with 24 points. Eight of 11 coaches picked Damonte, which was winless overall last season, to finish in the bottom three while nine of 11 had North valleys in the bottom three. Neither was picked high than seventh. Hug was selected to finish in the bottom three by all but one coach.