Rock Valley Conference
2017 conference standings: Clinton 9-0, Jefferson 8-1, Turner 7-2, Evansville/Albany 6-3, East Troy 5-4, Big Foot 3-6, McFarland 2-7, Brodhead/Juda 2-7, Edgerton 2-7, Whitewater 1-8
Top returning players: East Troy senior quarterback Jacob Dessart is the odds-on favorite to win the league’s offensive player of the year award.
Jefferson senior Nolan Klawitter easily surpassed the 1,000-yard mark in rushing last season. Turner’s Kyle Hanaman and Nano Reyes could each have a chance at 1,000 this year. And the Edgerton connection of quarterback Jalen Johnson and receiver Mason Simmons can light up the scoreboard.
The favorite: In a league that seems a little bit more up for grabs than usual, you’ve got to think the edge goes to the teams that return the most players who got experience last year.
East Troy definitely fits that description, and with Dessart’s dual-threat capabilities—along with the weapons at his disposal—the Trojans should be able to score with anybody. It’ll be a matter of whether their defense can keep them out of shootouts.
The contenders: Jefferson has been in the top three in the final standings ever since it joined the Rock Valley Conference standings, and the Eagles have a good shot to extend that streak.
Beloit Turner seems ripe to contend for the Rock Valley crown. With Hanaman, Reyes and quarterback Kenny Draeving, the Trojans have the firepower to go along with a defense that seemed to make strides last year.
And Edgerton, even though it finished 2-7 last year, might just find itself in the mix with most of its starting 22 back with experience under its belt.
Sleeper pick: I’m not ready to say Whitewater is ready to contend with the best teams in the league quite yet, but the Whippets have a chance to win several games. And after considering folding the program just a couple years ago and averaging one victory a season over the past four years, that’s saying something.