The Tigers, who were 9-2 last year and won the Southwestern Conference championship, will look to extend their dominance despite the loss of quarterback Dan Marinko and their top four receivers, Fontez Davis, Isaiah Michl, Tommy Maxwell and Monty Sharpe.
Edwardsville returns its starting tailbacks, seniors Jackson Morrissey and Kendell Davis, and has Division I prospects at defensive end in junior A.J. Epenesa and senior Desmond Chapple.
Senior Riley Jones replaces Marinko, the News-Democrat’s Large School Player of the Year in 2014.
Morrissey (374 yards, five touchdowns) and Davis (238 yards, three TDs) figure to help ease Jones’ transition.
The new-look receiving corps will feature senior Quentin Dissen, who had 12 catches for 91 yards and one TD last year. Martin has depth at the position from seniors Chrys Colley, Jourdyn Jones, Austyn Ferguson and junior Daval Torres.
Epenesa will see time at tight end along with junior Nathan Kolesa. The rest of the offensive line will include some combination of senior Nathan Crone, juniors Lucas Davis, Tate Rujawitz, Tyler Schmitt and Garrett Burns, and sophomore Cale Warrer.
Epenesa and Chapple will be two of the top players in the metro-east. Epenesa already has received dozens of Division I offers, while Chapple, despite devoping at a slower pace, also is certain to land at a major program. Epenesa had 38 tackles and four sacks last season, while Chapple finished with 24 tackles and two sacks.
The rest of the defensive line will include seniors Ihsaan Haqq (6-2, 370) and Derrick Whitehead (6-0, 350).
The top returning linebacker is junior Cyress Ahart, who had 50 tackles, seven sacks and three interceptions last year. The secondary will consist of Colley, Davis, Jones, senior Grant Bradley and junior Justin White.
— David Wilhelm
at Rock Island
East St. Louis
at Belleville West
at Granite City
at Loyola Academy
at East St. Louis
at Granite City
at Belleville East