With many great players and talented teams, the high school football landscape across the land of Lincoln is stronger than ever. A new season is upon us and each team is vying for a trip to Champaign in November. FOX Sports NEXT has compiled its preseason poll, put together by several analysts who cover the state of Illinois year round.
It's no coincidence that the two top teams in the state of Illinois are led by the state's top two quarterbacks, both who have a championship under their belt.
A rivalry is brewing between Bolingbrook quarterback Aaron Bailey and Maine South quarterback Matthew Alviti. Bailey, a four-star prospect, is committed to Illinois; Alviti, also a four-star, has pledged to the Fighting Illini's rival, Northwestern.
Both Bailey and Alviti have their sights set on winning another championship during their senior seasons, before becoming Big Ten rivals. Each talented team has potential to take home the title, creating an interesting debate; which team is Illinois' best?
In the FOX Sports NEXT preseason poll, the four Illinois High School experts were forced to make the call, and it would be a split decision. As a result of the tiebreaker rule, Bolingbrook takes the top spot due to its superior record in 2011.
Each expert explains their selection for the top spot in the rankings, plus offers a preview of what to expect.
Allen Trieu - National Recruiting Analyst, FOX Sports NEXT
"You have to like Maine South because it has a great quarterback who is a multi-year starter and will want to go out on top. He has a good offensive line and some great targets, too. I'm worried that in the playoffs, when weather becomes a factor, that may take away their strength, but I won't bet against them.
Beth Long - Midwest Field Reporter, FOX Sports NEXT
"Can you pick against the 8A state champs? I sure can't. Starting quarterback Aaron Bailey, who is headed to Illinois, has every reason to make his senior year even better than last year. Plus, Parrker Westphal looks to be able to replace the loss of Antonio Morrison to Florida and his play making ability on defense and guys like Omar Stover and Chandler Piekarski are in line for big years."
Chris Emma - Publisher/Reporter, PurpleWildcats.com
"Maine South quarterback Matthew Alviti is just a winner, and that's why I have tabbed the Redhawks as my top team in the state of Illinois. The senior already has one trophy and is looking for another one this season. Head coach Dave Inserra's team is a good one. Maine South is the best team in the state."
Ryan Easterling - Reporter, IllinoisPlaybook.com
"It was a tough call between two teams with future Big Ten quarterbacks, Aaron Bailey and Matt Alviti. But Bolingbrook returns a number of key players on both sides of the ball from last year's championship team including Chandler Piekarski, Omar Stover, and Parrker Westphal. However, Maine South has the tougher schedule and could sneak into the top spot with some impressive wins.
Wheaton Warrenville South High School Wheaton, Ill.
at No. 5 Glenbard West
Glenbard West High School Glen Ellyn, Ill.
vs. No. 4 Wheaton W.S.
East St. Louis High School East St. Louis, Ill.
at Rockhurst (Mo)
Loyola Academy Wilmette, Ill.
vs. No. 13 Simeon
Stevenson High School Lincolnshire, Ill.
vs. Lyons Township
Marist High School Chicago, Ill.
vs. St. Rita
Prairie Ridge High School Prairie Ridge, Ill.
vs. Glenbard South
Crete-Monee High School Crete, Ill.
Glenbard North High School Carol Stream, Ill.
Simeon Career Academy Chicago, Ill.
at No. 7 Loyola
St. Rita High School Chicago, Ill.
at No. 9 Marist
Wheaton North High School Wheaton, Ill.
Hinsdale Central High School Hinsdale, Ill.
vs. St. Charles North
Lincoln-Way East High School Frankfort, Ill.
vs. No. 23 Carmel
Richwoods High School Peoria, Ill.
Mount Carmel High School Chicago, Ill.
vs. St. Patrick
Montini Catholic High School Lombard, Ill.
at No. 25 Palatine
Lemont High School Lemont, Ill.
vs. Little Village
Naperville Central High School Naperville, Ill.
at Waubonsie Valley
Carmel High School Mundelein, Ill.
at No. 17 Lincoln-Way East
O'Fallon School O'Fallon, Ill.
Palatine High School Palatine, Ill.
vs. No. 19 Montini Catholic
Others receiving votes: Lake Zurich; Nazareth Academy; Geneva; Kaneland; Marian Central; De La Salle; Morris
Note: Votes tallied by four analysts in a descending point system. Tiebreaker is head-to-head; second tiebreaker is record (2011 record, for preseason rankings); third tiebreaker is season scoring total.