Well, it's here. It's finally here. The prep sports season is upon us in 2018.
Specifically, Friday Night Lights makes its return this evening, and you know what the means: I'm brewing up a batch of fresh Flick's Picks for you to consume.
I went 63-11 last year, but I went 0-2 in my final week, when I picked Clinton and Hononegah to advance in their respective games.
Without further ado, here's this week's Flick's Picks, along with some bonus thoughts on a few teams.
• WHITEWATER at BELOIT TURNER: The Trojans ease their way into the 2018 season against a team that was picked to finish last in the wissports.net Rock Valley Conference poll.
The Trojans really looked stacked this year, folks. This is certainly the most talented team that Turner has fielded in ages. Remember, it was 1991 the last time these guys won a playoff game. Blair Kiel played in four games as a quarterback for the Packers. They went 4-12. I was in eighth grade, battling acne and a horrendous wardrobe.
But times have changed. Turner is good. Aaron Rodgers leads the Packers. My skin cleared up, though the occasional wardrobe issues still pop up. This is going to be a great year for Turner.
Diehl talked a lot about in camp about how the team lacks leadership. Sure, that's a concern. But I have to believe a few kids will step up and step into that role. Winning the first game handily would be a great start.
I would be surprised if the Trojans lost more than two games in the regular season, and honestly I believe they can line up and play with anyone in the Rock.
You know who can't say the same thing? Whitewater. Though they are improved and have playoff aspirations, the Whippets gon' get whipped tonight. Whipped good. Devo would be proud (anyone over the age of 30 might have had a chance at getting that reference).
TURNER 49, WHITEWATER 13
• JANESVILLE CRAIG at BELOIT MEMORIAL: While I will be at Turner tonight to witness the public flogging, my co-editor Mr. Franz (still seems weird to type) got first pick in the draft this week and chose Beloit Memorial. Who could blame him? This is going to be a heck of a game.
It's a swing game for the Purple Knights. And the Cougars, too, for that matter. BMHS had a number of games last year that they were just good enough to lose by a touchdown or so. In order to improve from two conference wins to five, games like these are the ones they must get.
I believe in this Beloit Memorial team. I really do. I saw a good portion of their intrasquad scrimmage, and there are some real life dudes on this team. More than any BMHS team I've covered since 2008, it looks, feels and acts like a successful team.
Now, they must prove it on the field. Craig will be a solid team. Their defense should be stout. They've got a guy going to Wisconsin that won't be easy to handle. But the key for the Knights will be getting off to a fast start. I don't think you could call the Cougars offense explosive, and if they are forced to play from behind, it could cause them great problems.
Win the turnover battle, win the game. A true toss-up. The Knights are due.
BELOIT MEMORIAL 21, JANESVILLE CRAIG 20
• EAST TROY at CLINTON: I don't think I've picked against the Cougars in a couple of years. I gotta say, that's served me pretty well. Obviously, times have changed quite a bit. After running roughshod over the RVC for the past two years, the Cougars are picked to finish in the middle of the pack this year.
That sounds accurate to me. Clinton shined in the Jeff Spiwak regime, and the now-athletic director should be given plenty of credit for changing the culture and making the right calls on game day. As he would be the first to tell you, he also had a rather remarkable run of athletes to work with.
Jacob Marchillo, Derek Severson, Peyton Pope, Jordan Jones, Zach Krause, Connor Mulloolly, Tyler Halsted. The list goes on. These are some of the best players in Clinton history, and the Cougars took full advantage of the talent on hand, losing just three games in the past two years and advancing to the state semifinals in 2016.
The cupboard isn't bare. It's just not fully stocked with my Famous Amos cookies anymore. And that's OK. It's not full of generic-brand stale Oreo's either.
A realistic goal for the Cougars would be advancing to the playoffs again and keeping that legacy alive. I think Jack Henschler will do a fine job at quarterback, and I believe that Jackson Nelson is one of the finest two-way players in the area.
Depth will be an issue, but heck, depth has been an issue at Clinton forever, and it didn't stop them the last two years.
They start out against an East Troy team that features a terrific quarterback, good skill guys and a questionable defense. The Cougars have absolutely pounded them the last few years, but I think this is a tough way to start this season. A win here would send the Cougars on their way to five and a playoff berth, but I think they come up just a little shy .
EAST TROY 28, CLINTON 20.
• BIG FOOT at JEFFERSON: Speaking of tough ways to start a season, the Chiefs must travel to Jefferson in the first week. Now, the Eagles have lost a lot of talent from last year's terrific team, but they will still be expected to finish in the top half of the conference and make the playoffs.
Big Foot really has a lack of numbers this year, bu they've also got some talent to work with. Provided the offensive line can hold up, Logan Eischeid should have a big year. I do think the Chiefs can score. I'm less sure they can stop anybody. We shall soon find out.
JEFFERSON 35, BIG FOOT 23
• EVANSVILLE-ALBANY at BRODHEAD-JUDA: The streak is over. Why not start a new one? I think the Cardinals, after having missed out on the playoffs for the first time in 25 years later (an incredible run, BTW), might still be a year away from returning to the postseason.
But as Jim Matthys told me last week, they are already better than last year's team, provided they can stay healthy. The future looks bright for the Cards, with a talented freshman class and a good group at the younger levels emerging.
The Blue Devils should be down from what they were last year, but make no mistake: This will still be a solid team. Probably a little too much to handle for the Cardinals in week one.
EVANSVILLE-ALBANY 21, BRODEAD-JUDA 14