TRAVERSE CITY — The Big North Conference looks to be a battle royale this season.
With five of the seven teams coming off winning seasons and the other two hiring coaches with established track records, the road to a BNC crown isn’t getting any easier.
“I wouldn’t be shocked if the winning team had a couple losses by the end of the year,” Cadillac coach Jim Webb said. “I can’t see anyone going through unscathed.”
Traverse City Central was able to do that last year, going 6-0 in league play, but it’ll be no easy task to duplicate.
In the annual BNC preseason media poll, Traverse City West was selected as the favorite, with Cadillac second and TC Central and Ogemaw Heights tied for third.
“Our league is going to be, by far, the best it’s been since I’ve been here — top to bottom,” TC West coach Tim Wooer said. “Ogemaw finished strong last year, and I think they return 17 starters from what I counted. That’s crazy. And Central has that phenomenal junior class, so I think those two are the teams to beat. We’ll be competitive if we continue to improve. Petoskey will be better than they were last year. Alpena has some great, skilled kids with a coach that knows how to run the run-and-shoot in Mel Skillman. Gaylord has Will Cleaver back. And Cadillac has the best athlete in the league in Jalen Brooks.”
Cleaver, who returns to guide the Gaylord program, said the league is stronger now than when he was there from 2000-2007.
“The Big North is more tough now than it was before I left,” Cleaver said. “Petoskey turned it around. Cadillac has always been tough, and both Traverse City schools. In Ogemaw, Pratley has done a great job down there. I think we lost to them my last two years (in Gaylord) in 2006 and 2007. And then Alpena getting Mel Skillman. That guy has coached collegiately, he’s run the spread offense all over the place, so I’m sure they’ll be improved.”