My continuing series on the way too early look at the upcoming high school football season.

The high school sports year for the 2017-18 calendar has concluded and it's now summer break.  And while the students aren't looking forward to the summer fun ending anytime soon, I decided it was time to take a look at the upcoming football season.  Obviously it's way too early to get a solid grip on what may happen (fall practices don't begin until August 6th).  But that wasn't going to stop me from making some interesting predictions.

Probably the biggest story line heading into the 2018 season is the re-alignment of the Capital Area Activities Conference.  Several schools have been shuffled around in the CAAC, going from one division to the other.  DeWitt and Waverly leave the Red and jump up to the Blue.  Eastern, Williamston and Fowlerville join the Red, after departing the Blue & White respectively.  Meanwhile, Sexton becomes the newest member of the White.  It's a lot of shuffling, and we lose some interesting rivalries in the process.  But the moves also allow for some old rivalries to be renewed and brand new rivalries to be started.

Here's my VERY EARLY predictions for the CAAC Red:

  1. Haslett Vikings
  2. Williamston Hornets
  3. St. Johns Redwings
  4. Fowlerville Gladiators
  5. Mason Bulldogs
  6. Eastern Quakers

Probably the biggest shake-up in the CAAC is the departure of DeWitt from the Red division.  The Panthers had won every single Red title since leaving the Gold and joining in 2011 (including not losing a CAAC conference game PERIOD since 2008).  So with DeWitt moving to the Blue, that free's up a first time winner for 2018.  My early pick is the Haslett Vikings.  With key returning players in Hyrum Tibbitts at QB, Ben Brittain at RB and wideouts Jaden Thelen & Damon Redmond, the Vikings bring back some major components for the upcoming season.  Williamston is one of three new schools in the Red this year.  The Hornets have been battling it out in the CAAC White for several years.  And all though they lose all-area quarterback Jackson Pollack, the high-flying Hornets get back Lansing State Journal Dream Team defensive lineman Nathan Ellenbaas and a few others.  (Plus, the old-school Haslett-Williamston rivalry begins anew.)  For St. Johns, they're the only school to have defeated DeWitt while they were in the Red division (albeit that came in the 2015 District Final.)  The Redwings have finished in 2nd place three times since 2011, and are hoping for a rebound season.  They finished 5-4 in 2017 and missed the playoffs for the second straight year.  RB Konnor Near (who had 1200+ yards and 21 TD's on the ground) was another LSJ Dream Team member and backfield teammate Peyton Workman was an All-Area selection.  The Redwings could score in 2017, but their defense will need to step up in 2018 if they want to contend.  Fowlerville is another new CAAC Red member.  The Gladiators struggled mightily last year, finished 2-7.  Wide receiver JT Maybee was a bright spot in 2018.  But just like St. Johns, defense was a major issue for Fowlerville.  They'll have to drastically change the 35+ points per game given up if they want more success in their new division.  The Bulldogs of Mason were a huge surprise in 2016.  After many thought they would have a tough time, Mason finished 9-2, making it to the District Final.  But 2017 saw the Bulldogs looking for their way home.  The offense scored a combined 3 points in their first 4 ballgames, and only put up 105 total over the course of the season.  WR/DB Chandler Cheeks and OL/DL Noah Anderson will need help in Mason.  Football success has been missing for a long time on the campus of Lansing Eastern.  One playoff appearance in the last 21 years (and 1 win in the last 5 seasons) has the Quakers looking for answers.  Enter new head coach Jordan Morgan.  The former defensive coordinator (and former all-league defensive lineman at Ferris State) leads a squad that is hoping a change of divisions will equal more wins.

Some key players returning: Ben Brittain, RB, Haslett; Hyrum Tibbits, QB, Haslett; Jaden Thelen, WR/DB, Haslett; Damon Redmond, WR/DB, Haslett; Nathan Elenbaas, DL, Williamston; Carey Haney, WR, Williamston; Konnor Near, RB, St. Johns; Peyton Workman, RB, St. Johns; Kyler McNamara, OL/DL, St. Johns; JT Maybee, WR, Fowlerville; Chandler Cheeks, WR, Mason; Noah Anderson, OL/DL, Mason

Look out for my way too early predictions for the CAAC White.

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