Maybe it will just take time for egos and animosities to build.
But right now there seems to be a unique feeling when it comes to football in the second-year Northeastern Athletic Conference.
"There are some great coaches in this conference and everyone here likes one another," said Rockford Christian Life coach Chuck Leonard. "It's a pleasure to be in a conference where everyone likes each other."
Leonard also likes the chances of rival Rockford Christian (8-2, 8-1) to repeat as NAC champs. It has three of the league's premier threats in RB Arthur Ford (6-foot-3, 235 pounds), TE Drew Anderson (6-7, 230) and first-team all-NAC QB Mason Crosby.
"They'll be tough again," said Alden-Hebron coach John Lalor. "I think the rest of us are kind of in the boat of who can give them a battle."
Hebron (7-3, 7-2) was one of four NAC playoff qualifiers and Hope Academy (7-2, 7-2) was eligible but opted out of the postseason with depleted numbers.
Senior TE-LB-RB Sig Finley and junior C Jacob Walters will lead Hebron. Lalor's sophomore son Bryce takes over at quarterback.
Mooseheart (5-5, 5-4) has high numbers in the mid-40s but will still be young with only five seniors and 15 freshmen. Senior C Colton Bullock and FB-G Brendan Douglas are among the top returnees and coach Gary Urwiler likes his backfield with sophomore QB Jonathan Hart, freshman FB Prince Kollie and TB Oumara Abdulahi.
"Those guys are going to make some stuff happen," Urwiler said.
Christian Life (5-5, 5-4) lost nine seniors but has two-time all-conference junior FB-LB Jeff Polsean (900 yards), RB Jamar Ellis and Jay Huber in the backfield in its wishbone attack. Four starters return up front.
CICS-Longwood (5-4, 5-3) just missed the playoffs and lost some key players. Kenneth Cooksey (OL-DE), Larry Merriweather (RB-OLB) and LeSean Henry (LB-FB) will lead the way.
Kirkland Hiawatha (5-4, 4-4) also appears to be on the rise. North Shore Country Day (2-7, 2-7) has tremendous size that includes sophomore move-in and two-way tackle Joel Hylton (6-3, 280) from Pennsylvania to go with receiver David Deuble.
Christian Liberty (0-9, 0-9) expects to see more progress in its second full varsity season with RB-DB David Sotomayor, two-way linemen Nate Cavanaugh and Tyler Canoy and sophomore QB John Dulinsky.
"What I do like about our conference is you can't take a week off," Urwiler said. "The competitiveness and the teams that make up the conference is something to be reckoned with."Copyright © 2014 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.