Illinois Football Top 3
(With last year's final records in parentheses)
1. Mount Carmel (11-3)
Until evidence to the contrary materializes, the last team standing in 2010 is the one most deserving of the top spot at the start of 2011. Given the Caravan's tradition, this certainly doesn't rank as an out-of-left-field prediction, although there are some definite holes to fill. But coach Frank Lenti – who'll surpass former Richards boss Gary Korhonen as Illinois' career-wins leader sometime this season – never goes into any campaign unprepared, so expect Mount Carmel to seamlessly fit new parts into the proven Caravan machine.
2. Homewood-Flossmoor (10-3)
Mount Carmel prevented the Vikings from reaching last year's Class 8A title game, but that was one of the only things that didn't go right for H-F in its inaugural season under Craig Buzea. After stumbling through a couple of forgettable campaigns in 2008 and '09, the Vikings regained their balance and developed a bit of swagger as they responded favorably to Buzea's fiery brand of leadership. H-F must retool on defense and it will miss highly productive RB Malik Norman, but having QB Tim Williams back to run the offense is a huge plus.
3. Crete-Monee (8-4)
Back-to-back Class 6A quarterfinal appearances offer proof of the direction Jerry Verde has taken the Warriors program. Crete-Monee should again be the class of the Southland Athletic Conference, but they'll get tested immediately with road games at T.F. South and Lincoln-Way West. The former was scheduled to be a home contest, but summertime work done on the Warriors' field rendered it unplayable for Week 1. Defensive back Anthony Standifer, a Michigan recruit, and receiver LaQuon Treadwell are among the area's better athletes.