The final stop of the DC Preps Football Practice Tour took us to the area's biggest school: DeKalb.
The Barbs come off a disappointing 2-7 season in which they lost the first two games by a combined 15 points.
DeKalb has its third new coach in as many seasons as Matt Weckler comes over from Belvidere to head the Barbs. He'll have the advantage of an experienced quarterback and some returning playmakers, but told us that he expects his team to be young.
What's different at DeKalb's practices this year? Weckler said there's a little more structure and the pace of everything has been amped up.
The Barbs start the season with two games on the road, but both are against opponents with losing records last season.
It's been a fun drive throughout the DeKalb area today. We have A LOT planned for the season, as each week we'll have our video show (3-Point Stance), predictions, game video highlights and a Play of the Week.
August 30 will be here before we know it!
The DC Preps Football Practice Tour bus (OK, we don't really have a bus, but the car of web producer John Sahly) rolled onto Genoa-Kingston and Hiawatha for the third and fourth stops of the day.
Both teams went 3-6 last season, missing out on the playoffs with a couple of late-season losses. In fact, both squads were 2-2 after four games in 2012.
Hiawatha seems set at the quarterback position with senior Mike Mercado set to begin his third season as the starter. Hiawatha coach Sean Donnelly called Mercado maybe the hardest-working kid he's coached.
Because of Mercado's experience and the Hawks' success offensively towards the end of last year, Donnelly said the offense will be more pass-oriented this season compared to in the past.
At Genoa-Kingston, the quarterback situation is a bit more unclear as junior Griffin McNeal, who started the last two games of last season, will compete with Tyler L'Hullier for the starting spot.
No matter who gets the starting gig, expect a heavy dose of carries for senior RB Sal Lopez.
Final stop: DeKalb
The second stop of the DC Preps Football Practice tour was just down the road at Sycamore, which recorded a 6-3 record in 2012 and won its opening playoff game against Chicago King before a heart-breaking loss to Montini in the final seconds.
Sycamore returns a lot of starters and depth from last year's team. Four of five starters on the offensive line come back and the entire linebacking corps returns from a defensive unit that was very good for most of the 2012 season.
"I thought our defensive backs played really well, especially in the latter half [of the summer], our 7-on-7's, which is important," Sycamore coach Joe Ryan said.
One player to watch will be Ben Niemann, who committed to Iowa over the summer and will play both ways for Sycamore during the 2013 season. He will line up at wide receiver and safety.
Next up: Genoa-Kingston and Hiawatha
The first stop on our tour of the five local high schools was Kaneland, the defending Northern Illinois Big 12 East champions and owners of a 9-0 regular-season record in 2012.
However, last year's season ended with an upset loss to Lincoln-Way West in the second round of the Class 5A playoffs.
After talking to seninor quarterback Drew David and senior linebacker Gary Koehring, it seems as if the Knights are no longer thinking about long-term aspirations. Both said the team was solely focused on Brooks, the Knights' Week 1 opponent, and the state championships being held in DeKalb really wasn't of concern, right now.
"We all feel really bad in how it all ended," Kaneland coach Tom Fedderly said. "As a team as a whole, we were pretty disappointed about how it ended. We think that's maybe something we need to go through and learn and apply what we learned with that tough loss going into this year."
As for David's broken thumb, which happened near the end of the 2012 season, Fedderly says it's not a concern heading into 2013.
"He's got a pin in there and he's good," Fedderly said. "He's throwing the ball well. We had a really good summer with our 7-on-7's. We played really good competition and we did really well."