We roll on here at football central. Today, a look at the Bay Valley Athletic League.
Is the BVAL wide open this year, or will Pittsburg rise to the top yet again?
The short answer to that question is the former. In my estimation, this is absolutely a year the mighty Pirates will be challenged up at the top of the standings.
But, don’t kid yourself into thinking Pittsburg is going to shrink into obscurity. It’s not. The Pirates return plenty of talent, and will always be in the title hunt. Two players to watch right off the top are linemen Motekiai Maile and Antonio Huey. I think they could be two of the better big men in the area. Who they’re blocking for is still a matter of debate. Quarterback Malik Watson is gone, as are running backs Fe’ao Vunipola and Mister Cotton. Into their shoes step new quarterback Lorenzo Renteria and running backs Crajon Menefee and Jamal Lockett. I liked what I saw from both of those backs last year, so the Pirates will be fine there. If Renteria can provide stability under center, I think Pitt will be just fine.
There are challengers, of course. Freedom could really be a team to watch, not only in the BVAL but in the Division I playoffs. Not too many teams have a returning trio of playmakers like Dante Mayes, Darrell Daniels and Joe Mixon. The Falcons also return a bunch of offensive linemen, which is going to make that offense even more fluid and dynamic. If the defense can plug the holes left by graduation, this should definitely be a championship-caliber team.
As usual, you can never count out Deer Valley and Heritage. The Wolverines return a bunch of talent, led by RB Shane Pooler and the Websters, Nzuzi and Nsimba. DV actually beat Pitt last year, but faded down the stretch to lose its last three games and miss the playoffs. If fatigue sets in late this season, the same thing will happen because the Wolverines finish with Pitt, Freedom and Heritage.
Speaking of the Patriots, I don’t quite know what to make of them just yet. Three of their six losses in 2011 were by six points or less, so it seems to me if they reverse that trend, they’ll be good to go. Anthony Carter returns at QB, which is always a good starting point. The bottom line is Jeff Haagenson has built consistency at Heritage, and I don’t see that going away.
Antioch and Liberty continue to try and get back into that upper echelon of BVAL teams, but I think the Panthers are much further along in that pursuit than the Lions. Antioch was one of only three BVAL teams to finish 2011 with a winning record, making the playoffs before a 19-13 loss to Pittsburg knocked them out. The Panthers return QB Hunter Karnthong, RB Elbert Hamilton and LB Markie Beltram to form a good nucleus that should be very interested in keeping that momentum going. After looking at their nonleague schedule, I would think they have a pretty good shot at being 5-0 heading into the BVAL season.
Liberty’s a whole different story, with some off the field issues throwing a wrench in the plans, I’m sure. The Lions are going to have to rally around each other to succeed this season, but they do return quarterback Cody Suckow, so they’ve got that going for them.
Altogether, this is going to be a wild league to follow all the way down to the end. Gonna be tough to predict a champion. Who ya got?