The high school football preseason is for predictions, projections and -- thankfully, for me -- prognosticators.
With the regular season starting Thursday, however, the clean slates, expectations and hopes of many teams will turn to harsh realities in a number of days. For others, confidence and momentum will build with early season wins, possibly leading the way to playoff runs that will continue their seasons well into autumn.
Before everything gets started in earnest, let's take a last, quick look around the Kanawha Valley at the potential of the teams after their preseason work. From what has been seen by myself and other Daily Mail writers, we could have as many as six teams from Kanawha and Putnam counties reach the playoffs. That would be a higher number of teams than in the past two seasons, and equal a high that hasn't been topped since 2007.
On to the teams, in alphabetical order:
Buffalo -- The loss of two-way standout Laythen Good to a preseason knee injury is compounded by the Bison's overwhelming percentage of freshmen on the roster. There are 13 ninth-graders on the 30-man list, which is real promising for 2016. It could be a long season this year, though. Prediction: 2-8
Capital -- If the Cougars' solidarity holds up and quarterback Tyrhee Pratt stays healthy, they have the goods to make a run at the Super Six. This club is every bit as talented as the 2008 South Charleston team that won the state title. A three-week stretch that sees Capital play at South Charleston, at Huntington and home against Cabell Midland from Sept. 27-Oct. 11 will be a measuring stick for how playoff-ready Coach Jon Carpenter's team is, or if its youth is still a season away from true maturity. Prediction: 9-1
George Washington -- Depth could be an issue for the Patriots, as evidenced by their subs being outscored 24-0 by Huntington at the Mountain State Athletic Conference Grid-O-Rama. That said, GW's starting lineup looks solid on both sides of the ball. The starters led 21-7 before Coach Steve Edwards Jr. subbed them out. They need star linebacker Zach Malone to get healthy, and when they do get him, the depth will improve. GW's defensive front looks impressive, and their secondary is always one of the state's better units. Prediction: 7-3
Herbert Hoover -- The Huskies are in good position to break their two-year playoff absence. They've got a good running back - Shaun Dotson - two quarterbacks with starting experience - Brendan Holbrook and Tyler Americo - and a sizeable line on both sides of the ball. Prediction: 6-4
Hurricane -- The Redskins are better equipped for a deep playoff run than at any time since 2010, when they had all but wrapped up a playoff quarterfinal win against South Charleston until an inexplicable series of events in the final minute. Quarterback Austin Hensley has FBS potential, Zach Pate multi-dimensional weapon, and - most importantly for the team - they play good defense.
On the bad side, Hurricane has perhaps the most difficult schedule of any area team this season. Prediction: 7-3