Milwaukee Marquette went unbeaten in league play at 7-0, holding five opponents in single figures, to win the title chase by two games over Brookfield Central.
Wauwatosa East, Sussex Hamilton and West Allis Hale posted 4-3 league finishes, which also earned them postseason berths.
The entire all-Metro first-team offense graduated, as did all but three spots on the first-team defense. However, enough returning players should be back from the second teams and honorable mention list to make the league chase interesting.
The Hilltoppers lost their regular-season opener to eventual Division 3 state champion Wisconsin Lutheran and didn't lose again until a heartbreaking 44-41 double overtime setback to Hartland Arrowhead, which then went on to claim the D-1 title.
Marquette ended the regular season at 8-1 and reached Level 3 for a second consecutive year while making the D-1 playoffs for an eighth straight time. The Hilltoppers knocked off Big Eight entrants Middleton (42-14) and Madison La Follette (45-33) before falling to the Warhawks.
Marquette faces an uphill climb if it wants to win its fourth league crown in six years as it loses all-league performers at nearly every position.
Among those who graduated were first-teamers in wide receiver Alex Remsik, offensive tackle Jason Kons, guard Jake Geiger, quarterback and player of the year Brian Mucahy, running back Ben Miller, defensive back Brendan Sweeney, outside linebacker Charles Ringhand and inside backer Andrew Papachristou.
Also gone are second-team choices in wide receiver Marquis Boston, tackle Estevan Galicia, running back Ben Fahey, defensive lineman Tyler Jones, punter Pat Kotecki and place-kicker Pat Hughes. Honorable mention picks Joe Poirier at center, Andy Evanich at outside linebacker, Justin Martin at all-purpose performer and Jake Malewicki at outside linebacker also graduated.
Miller gained 1,689 yards on 201 carries (8.4) and reached the end zone 21 times and added 13 receptions for 133 yards. Meanwhile, Mucahy rushed for 529 yards and eight scores and completed 102 of 168 pass attempts (60.7 percent) for 1,237 yards and a TD-to-interception ratio of 16-7. Remsik was a top target with 32 catches for 418 yards and six touchdowns.
Despite those huge holes, the Hilltoppers return several key building blocks in junior second-team tight end Collin Weyer, junior honorable mention defensive back Michael Trotter and senior first-team defensive lineman Taylor Moore.
Weyer averaged 19 yards for each of his eight receptions.
The Lancers won their nonconference outings and won their final three league contests to finish 7-2 in the regular season. Central then eliminated Whitefish Bay, 35-27, before falling 17-0 to Germantown in the D-2 playoffs after losing the title game in each of their previous two appearances in 2002 and '06.
Central returns three key senior cogs from a defense that allowed more than 20 points only twice: first-team lineman Matt Upson, second-team outside linebacker T.J. Gruman and second-team defensive back Michael Rossmiller.
However, like Marquette, the Lancers lost a ton of talent through graduation that won't be replaced easily.
That group included Brad Nortman and Mike Bogard.
Nortman, a University of Wisconsin recruit, was widely considered the state's top punter, was a first-team inside linebacker and an honorable mention tight end. Bogard, who's attending D-3 Grinnell College in Iowa, was a second-team quarterback after completing 59 of 112 attempts (52.7 percent) for 856 yards and first-team place-kicker.
The Lancers must also replace first-team guard Jacob Glickstein, first-team running back Drew Herma, second-team ball toter Jake Taylor, honorable mention guard Charles Smith, honorable mention outside linebacker Paul Copoulos and honorable mention defensive lineman Nick Kestly.
Glickstein will be a preferred walk-on at the University of Minnesota, Herma is headed to Division 1-AA Georgetown after gaining 1,143 yards on 156 attempts (7.3) and 17 touchdowns, Taylor will play at UW-Whitewater after churning for 456 yards and nine rushing TDs. Also, wide receiver Darius Holman, a second-team all-purpose player, is heading for D-II program St. Cloud State.
West Allis Hale
The Huskies split their non-league games and qualified for postseason play by virtue of their 4-3 league finish in which they were held under 20 points only once.
They made their second straight playoff appearance after not reaching the postseason since 1989, dropping a wild 42-40 decision to Sun Prairie in the first round of D-1.
The run-oriented Huskies featured a four-pronged backfield arsenal led by Rob Lee, who gained 950 yards on only 107 carries for an 8.9 average and 13 touchdowns. Cory Pallen danced for 805 yards on just 77 attempts (10.5) and reached paydirt eight times, while Matt Herbstreith chipped in 706 yards and five scores. Quarterback Tommy Koch rounded out the quartet with 389 yards and 10 TDs.
The problem is that first-teamer Lee and honorable mention selection Herbstreith have graduated. The latter also was an honorable mention punter. The good thing is that seniors Koch and Pallen, both honorable mention picks, are returning.
Also expected back are honorable mention guard Thomas Ayling, second-team defensive back Dan Wall and first-team inside linebacker Brian Otto, all seniors.
However, five honorable mention choices must be replaced: defensive back Luke Czaplewski, outside linebacker Kevin Luty, defensive lineman Alex Moreno, wide receiver Mike Tapp and offensive lineman Chris Smolko as well as second-team lineman Marcus Mueller.
Mueller and Smolko are expected to play at UW-Whitewater, while Lee is heading for the JUCO ranks at North Dakota State College of Science.
The Chargers won their two nonconference outings and opened the league slate with a big 13-10 victory over Brookfield Central before finishing 4-3 and 6-3. They gained their 12th D-2 playoff appearance, losing a tough first-round matchup against Germantown, 14-10.
Hamilton could be on the move up behind five returning all-league performers: senior second-team guard Grant Poenitsch, senior honorable mention quarterback Justin Rupnow, senior honorable mention defensive backs Tony Anderson and Tyler Janus, and junior honorable mention inside linebacker Eric Reimer.
Rupnow completed 50 of 96 pass attempts for 700 yards and five TDs and added 500 yards rushing and six scores.
They also must replace a host of important pieces, all first-teamers, in guard-defensive lineman and co-player of the year Brent Aaron, center Mike Kopp, defensive back Justin Patterson, outside linebacker Nick Schaefer, all-purpose back Nick Heppe and defensive linemen Mike Bernarde as well as second-team inside backer Coty Schmidt.
Bernarde will play at D-2 school Minnesota State-Mankato, while Aaron is headed for UW-Oshkosh.
The Red Raiders won both of their non-league tilts and were sitting at 6-3 before losing their last two regular-season outings.
Still, they made their 11th playoff trip in D-2, reaching Level 2. East whipped Westosha Central, 42-16, but then tasted the other end of the spectrum in falling, 44-16, to Waterford.
East must find a host of replacements if it wants to duplicate last year's efforts because senior second-team defensive lineman Glen Kendl is the lone returning all-league performer.
Gone are first-team wide receiver D.J. Cupertino, second-team guard and honorable mention defensive lineman Byron Colbert, second-team running back Donovan Ferger, and honorable mention picks in center Ryan Stasinski, quarterback Matt Karger and inside linebackers Todd Williams and Torre Williams.
Ferger was the team's leading rusher with 151 carries for 960 yards (6.4) and 13 touchdowns, Cupertino topped the squad with 38 receptions for 587 yards (15.4) and seven scores and Karger completed 139 of 265 (52.5 percent) for 1,984 yards and 18 TDs with only eight interceptions.
Junior wide receiver Barrett Powell made the second team and gives the Red Raiders a promising weapon after hauling in 37 passes for 628 yards (17.0) and four scores.
The Indians got off to a 2-0 start but struggled through a 2-5 league finish, scoring more than 19 points only once in conference play. Thus, they missed the postseason for the second time in a row after making six straight appearances.
Menomonee Falls faces a stiff challenge in replacing numerous all-league honorees, including second-team selections in center Nick Heyen, defensive back Joe Botticelli (also an honorable mention all-purpose choice), outside linebacker Tony Godbolt, defensive lineman Luke Haen and inside linebacker Jesse Sanders. They also lost honorable mention picks in quarterback Alex Erdman, running back Drew Winter and defensive lineman Jordan Shull to graduation.
The Spartans started 1-1 and won their first loop game but then lost five in a row as they finished 2-5 in the conference and 3-6 overall, failing to qualify for the playoffs for a fourth consecutive time after making the school's first two appearances in 2002-03.
Brookfield East does return a couple of building blocks in junior honorable mention running backs Donovan Tucker and Joey Woppert.
Tucker and Woppert combined for nearly 1,100 yards and 12 touchdowns rushing.
However, the Spartans face a big task in replacing many of their standouts, including first-teamers in tight end Brian Condon and defensive back Alex Dati, the latter also earning honorable mention status as an all-purpose guy.
Also gone are second-teamers in inside linebacker Sean Kugler and defensive lineman Taylor Hueninck and honorable mention players in tackle Ryan Toman, center Eric Coleman, quarterback Justin Wagner and outside linebacker Tom Brzykcy.
Wagner struggled in completing only 36.4 percent of his passes, but he finished with 560 yards and a 5-3 touchdown-to-interception ratio.
West Allis Central
The Bulldogs won their season opener by a point over Watertown and struck out the rest of the year, finishing 0-7 in Greater Metro action and 1-8 overall. They haven't earned a playoff berth since 2004.
West Allis Central returns some building blocks in junior honorable mention wide receiver Mike Westrich, who caught 25 balls for 534 yards (21.4) and seven scores, and junior honorable mention quarterback Ryan Barwick.
The Bulldogs must replace honorable mention selections in wide receiver Jeff Meleski and defensive lineman Tony Roun.