Hayti a safe pick to win the SEMO South
Ready or not, the high school football season is upon us.
Several teams in the SEMO Conference have scheduled soap games for Friday night, and all will participate in a jamboree scrimmage on Aug. 29.
Who are the best teams in the conference this year? I say Cape Central wins the SEMO North Division and New Madrid County Central takes the SEMO Central.
This week, we move on to the SEMO South -- the toughest conference to predict nearly every year.
At this point, Hayti looks like the safe choice.
Several players return from last year's 11-2 team, which took second place in the state.
The squad is led by two-time all-state receiver William Moore, who has verbally committed to the University of Missouri.
In the backfield, you've got proven players like Torey Nelson and Jason Covington ready to carry the mail.
Other key returners include Marcus Brown and Randall Gilmore on the offensive line, then Brian Gardner and Dominique Robinson on the defensive line.
Head coach David Gilmore is gone, but former coach Jerry Bethune is back.
Bethune is the one that got things turned around down there a couple of years ago.
With the talent he's got, another deep playoff run seems likely.
Like last year, Hayti's biggest threat in the conference is Portageville.
The Bulldogs won the SEMO South last year, but lost nine impact players off that 9-2 quarterfinal team.
Still, when you consider Coach Jim McKay's track record, Portageville shouldn't be counted out.
Quarterback Jordan Penn was 4-0 as a starter last year and Antonio Scott has the potential to lead the entire conference in rushing. Also, most of the offensive line returns.
Their biggest question mark appears to be on defense. Replacing guys like Drew Underwood, Aaron Bidewell and Chris Bates will be tough, if not impossible.
Behind Hayti and Portageville is Malden.
The Green Wave return almost their entire defense and most of the offensive line from last year's 4-6 team. Most of the skill players are gone though, with the exception of tight end Brad Ealey.
This year Malden will be a little bigger, a little stronger but probably a little slower. Still, they've got enough talent and tradition to make a run at the conference title.
Scott City also hopes to be a sleeper, under the direction of last-minute head coach Jackie Johnson.
Johnson will bring the offense he ran at Caruthersville with him, which should suit promising young players like quarterback Luke McClellan and running back Matt Schaefer.
They should improve on last year's 4-6 record.
Speaking of improved, watch out for East Prairie.
The Eagles were the worst team in the area last year, but could make a drastic turnaround this season. With Josh Boyer, Brent Harland, Jacob Poore and Kaleb Thurman, first-year coach Brett Blackman has something to work with.
If the Eagles can avoid injury, they could win three and maybe four games, something that hasn't been done since 1998 when the team went 3-7.
That leaves us with Chaffee. The Red Devils lost almost everything off last year's 1-9 team, including their head coach, so expectations are low.
Gabe Walter, Nick Powderly and Brandon Davis will have to carry the team while the rest of the underclassmen gain experience.
When will the sun every shine on Chaffee again? The Red Devils haven't had a winning season in 12 years.