High school football coaches study each other extremely closely.
So when East St. Louis garnered six of seven first-place votes Monday in the News-Democrat's Preseason Large-School (Class 5A-8A) Football Rankings, it likely came as no surprise since area coaches are the primary voters.
The Flyers, who open the season against Missouri power Kansas City Rockhurst on Friday, are coming off an 8-3 season and have a roster dotted with numerous Division I recruits.
Rounding out the Large-School top five were Edwardsville (10-2), O'Fallon (8-3), Belleville West (6-4) and Highland (5-5).
Highland, which plays in the Mississippi Valley Conference, was the lone non-SWC team in the top five.
The Preseason Small-School Rankings were a little tighter, with Columbia earning four of seven first-place votes to edge Althoff and Mater Dei for the No. 1 spot.
Area coaches didn't seem bothered by Columbia's loss of numerous returning starters and the Eagles are coming off a 9-2 season.
Althoff (10-4), which finished second in Class 2A last season, holds down the No. 2 spot, followed by Mater Dei (6-4), Waterloo (5-5) and Dupo (6-4).