I decided to visit two such schools, who are just a few miles apart from each other: Peoria and Centennial.
Peoria was first up on the tour, and like Centennial, there’s much to be expected from the team come August.
Will Babb is the new Panthers head coach, and is blessed to inherit over a dozen players who started last season, or saw a significant amount of playing time.
If you’re a Peoria alum, or just a long-time fan of the program, Babb should be familiar to you. He led the Panthers to back-to-back 4A state titles in 1986 and 1987.
Babb is very aware of the great history of the school, and is honored and excited to get the regular season underway.
“If we perform as best we can and perform to our peak performance, then we’ll be satisfied with that,” Babb said. “If we do that, we’re gonna give ourselves a chance to play for a state championship.”
State championships are nothing new to the Centennial Coyotes. Under head coach Richard Taylor, the school has made seven straight trips to the semifinals and beyond, winning three state titles in that timespan.
Which is why Taylor and the Coyotes will be expected to get to the promised land again this year, which is something senior offensive lineman Hayden Johnson thinks is very doable.
“I think that right now we have the personnel and the people to do it,” Johnson said. “I think that just the effort, and we just need to keep working hard.”
Coach Taylor is encouraged by the attitude of his returning players, who have shown serious improvement in all facets of their game in the offseason.
“They’re respectful, they’re listening, they’re trying to do what they’re being asked to,” Taylor said. “They’re anxious to get started.”