The Bangor Cardinals are the team to beat once again this season in the Scenic Bluffs Conference.
After going 9-0 in the regular season last year, the Cardinals return two of their three stellar running backs in 2015. Jack Reader rushed for 1,000 yards and 11 touchdowns as a junior while Andrew Piske rushed for nearly 1,800 yards and 30 touchdowns in his junior season.
Both are expected to put up big numbers again this year, but now without the help of a strong offensive line.
"We had a really good summer, we had some amazing lifting," senior quarterback Kellen Kravik said. "We had our running back over 500 pounds and a bunch of our linemen over 400 pounds for squats, so we know we can move people off the line, we just got to have our speed and see what we can do."
Piske and Reader play an important role on defense as well as linebackers. Along with Alex Matz, Bangor returns three All-Conference selections to a 3-5 defense that had four shutouts last season, and held opponents to under 10 points in eight of the team's 12 games.
"It's going to be huge having those guys back with experience and kind of bringing some of our young guys along as well," head coach Rick Muellenberg said.
"There's a lot of camaraderie between us," senior linebacker Jack Reader said, "so we just want to make big plays and mainly just go out there and have fun."
Bangor opens the season Thursday, August 20 against Melrose-Mindoro. The Cardinals have won the last seven matchups against the Mustangs.
There's a new wrinkle to the schedule though as a result of Wonewoc Center leaving the conference to join the Ridge and Valley Conference. Bangor and other Scenic Bluffs teams will now play crossover games against the Six Rivers Conference. The Cardinals will host Highland on Saturday, September 12.