With high school football practice days away, the Clyde Fliers have been labeled the clear favorites at the annual Sandusky Bay Conference football coaches golf outing that featured the usual coaches and media preseason poll afterwards.
The Fliers, who won the conference title a year ago while also finishing with regional runnerup trophy in Division III, were a near unanimous pick by the coaches and the local media.
The first official practice for teams in the state of Ohio begins Thursday, which is also the first time ever practices will begin in the month of July due to state championship weekend being moved up to coincide with Thanksgiving Day weekend.
Fourth-year coach Marc Gibson, who will have 67 kids out in the top three grades along with 25 freshman, talked about his team.
"We only return three starters on defense, so we must replace a lot there," Gibson said. "Offensively, we also lose our top six receivers so there was tremendous talent lost, but we also feel extremely good about what's back.
"Our kids take pride in working hard to get better, and we will continue to do so."
While the Fliers were the consensus favorite, the perennial power Huron Tigers were also a runaway choice for second place in both polls.
"By our standards we've got speed and the size to go with it," Huron coach Tony Legando, entering his 21st season at the school, said. "We've got 63 out in the top three grades, but they are going to have to work it because our coaching staff refuses to accept any different.
"We are going to make it so hard, because we want to find out today who wants to play. I don't want to know if we'll have kids that want to play in the fourth quarter against Oak Harbor or Perkins, I want to know right now."
At Oak Harbor, first-year coach Mike May takes over for Gary Quisno, and knows the void he's filling is a big one.
"I've got some big shoes to fill," May said. "I'm fortunate to be in this position and it's an honor to follow Gary. We will have around 11 or 12 letterwinners back with two starters on offense and three on defense.
"We have seven seniors, but our junior class is a good-sized group both physically and in numbers."
The Rockets were 8-3 a year ago with a 6-1 second place finish in the conference.
At Edison, eighth-year head coach Jim Hall talked about the expectations for the Chargers, who finished 6-4 overall and 5-2 in the SBC for third place.
"Our expectations continue to rise," Hall said. "The kids we have now know what it takes to put in the time in lifting and conditioning. We have 50 kids out in the top three grades and will have 18 letterwinners coming back.
"There are five starters back on both sides of the ball, and while we are thin on seniors with only ten total, we are excited about the talent coming back as a lot of underclassmen saw playing time a year ago."
At Perkins, Quisno made the lateral move to stay in the SBC after retiring from Oak Harbor to guide the Pirates in 2008 and beyond.
"My time here so far has been very encouraging," Quisno said. "I've seen a lot of positives here. We'll have 45-to-50 kids in the top three grades with 15-to-20 lettermen and although the freshman numbers are a little down, there is a lot of athletic ability here.
"We worked on strength a lot in the summer and feel like we've addressed it. So far, so good...it's been a very positive experience to this point."
Perkins finished 3-7 overall last season and 1-6 in the conference.
At St. Mary's, first-year coach and former Sandusky Blue Streak assistant Jason Ziegler takes over for Toby Notestine, who stepped down after five seasons and has since returned as an assistant at Sandusky High.
Ziegler will have 30 kids in the top three grades and 16 freshman for a 46-man roster.
"The kids are picking up the system quickly," Ziegler said. "We've had five camps and numerous passing scrimmages and we are real excited with the conditioning, which is a direct reflection of our 13 seniors.
"We will continue to stay with the spread offense and we'll run a odd front defensively. It's a real honor to be a head coach in the SBC and I'm proud to be a part of it."
The Panthers finished 5-5 last season, including 3-4 in the conference.
At Margaretta, former Perkins coach Rock Farlow is back in the SBC circles after a three-year hiatus and admittedly is glad to be back.
"Honestly, my first year out of coaching...I didn't miss it," Farlow said. "But after that first year, I refocused and realized how much I missed it. It's good to be back and I'm enjoying my time and the kids have responded well."
Farlow will have 38-to-40 kids in the top three grades and 20-to-22 freshman.
"We aren't huge by any means," Farlow said. "We need size up front, but what we have is a talented group, but also athletic."
The Polar Bears were 1-9 last season and 1-6 in the conference.
At Port Clinton, fifth-year coach Toby Hammond continues to battle depth issues on the roster, but feels strides have been made.
"We have great numbers out for us," he said. "There will be 35 kids in the top three grades with 30 freshman and another 80 kids in the junior high. But we've got to keep these kids out to be competitive and get it done.
"There are only five seniors back, but the future here is promising. We expect our new weight room to be done by next winter and that has been a huge step with football starting to be important here. A change of culture and attitude has been the biggest thing here."
The season will kickoff for area teams on August 22, with St. Paul and St. Mary's playing the following night on the 23rd.
Keep up with all the local sports action at Fandy.com.