The 2011 season saw a three-way tie for the Fox Valley Conference Fox Division title with the Crystal Lake Central Tigers, Grayslake Central Knights and Woodstock North Thunder all tying for a 5-1 divisional record. The Knights and Thunder each finished with 7-3 records while the Tigers finished at 6-4 after all three lost in the first round of the Illinois High School playoffs. Grayslake Central started 6-0 last season before faltering down the stretch and losing to Tinley Park in the first round of the playoffs. The loss of quarterback Ray Beckman to graduation will take some time to get over for first-year coach Ben Ault.
Woodstock North made their first appearance in the playoffs in school history last season and return several skill players including quarterback Brian Loftin and running back Adam Haimbaugh which should give the Thunder an advantage over some of their FVC Fox opponents with the experience factor. Crystal Lake Central will miss running back Gage Harrah, who has led the Tigers in rushing in recent years but will have running back Matt MacAlpine returning which should take some pressure off the Central offense.
Grayslake North just missed the playoffs at 4-5 after starting at 4-2 but couldn’t get the elusive fifth win which had qualified the Knights for the playoffs. A.J. Fish will return at quarterback for the Knights which may be enough to push them over the top. The Woodstock Blue Streaks went 2-7 after going 1-8 in 2010. Woodstock will need some more time to rebuild the program but quarterback Tyler Purkey’s return will assist the Blue Streaks in trying to increase their 2012 win total. The bottom of the conference featured the Hampshire Whip-Purs and Johnsburg Skyhawks. Hampshire’s lone win on the season in 2011 was an overtime victory over Johnsburg. The Skyhawks have a new coach in 2012 with Mike Maloney, after their first winless season in 17 years in 2011. I think in 2012 that Woodstock North is going to end up winning the division with Grayslake Central and Grayslake North right behind the Thunder.