There is usually a clear dividing line for football in the Central Suburban League's North division.
For six straight years and nine of the last 10, Glenbrook North, Highland Park and Deerfield have finished in the CSL North's top three. The only schools to break into the upper half were Maine West (second in 2004 and part of a three-way tie for second in 2002) and Niles North (three-way tie for second in 2008).
And the big three have claimed all the CSL North titles since 1999 after Maine South was moved to the CSL South and replaced by Maine East.
Will it be any different this year?
"It's the same as always, the top three are Glenbrook North, Highland Park and Deerfield," Maine West coach Chris Hare said of the CSL North's long division history. "I'd like to say we'll finish in the top three and I hope we do this year, but it's typical."
With defending champion Glenbrook North poised to win the title for the eighth time since 1999. Having the CSL North offensive player of the year in running back Grant Rushing (1,162 yards, 17 touchdowns) and offensive lineman of the year in left tackle Mike Ermel (6-feet-4, 275 pounds) is a nice starting point.
The Spartans also have Trevor Ponticelli (14 catches, 248 yards, 2 TDs) at receiver and linebackers Jason Scholl and Alex Griffin had 90 and 69 tackles respectively last year.
"Glenbrook North will be the favorite until someone knocks them off," said Deerfield coach Steve Winiecki.
Highland Park has won three of the last five CSL North titles but graduated 13 starters from last year.
A pair of Giants should keep them in line for a ninth straight postseason trip in 6-4 receiver-middle linebacker Ross Chukerman and right tackle Mike Beauchamp (6-5, 275).
Deerfield didn't have enough playoff points to make the postseason at 5-4 last year. Putting up points shouldn't be an issue with the return of top offensive threats in fullback Jeremy Kritt (702 yards, 12 TDs) and halfback-kick returner Marc Pagano (310 yards rushing; 14 catches for 293 yards, 5 TDs). Linebacker John Kerstein was the Warriors third-leading tackler.
In recent years, Niles North has been the program closest to consistently breaking into the upper half of the division under Scott Smith. The Vikings have a dangerous threat in Oshayne Brown, who rushed for more than 500 yards last year.
Maine West will have a young team but Hare believes it can win now with senior quarterback-safety Jake Korbecki, who didn't play last year, and returning two-way starters Dan O'Hara and Dan Cardamone leading a strong junior class.
Maine East looks to continue making strides with quarterback-free safety George Zakharia and two-way lineman Zeshan Daramjee (6-0, 230).