Plenty of storylines as football approaches

As the Fourth of July holiday has come and gone, summer is now officially half over – at least in the sporting world of the Tribune Chronicle.

It’s crazy to think that in 53 days the high school football season will begin. It feels like just yesterday that Cardinal Mooney was playing for a state title and now Niles graduate Kyle Paden was launching passes through the air and putting up video game-like numbers.

However, that was 2013. It’s now time to focus on this season and what to look out for in a mere 53 days.

THE TEAM TO WATCH OUT FOR: Without a doubt, the Hubbard Eagles are this year’s favorite to make noise in the area, as well as in the state. They should be, considering they are bringing to the table five Division I college prospects/recruits.

The two biggest names on that list are the two running backs – L.J. Scott and George Hill. Scott, who has been making big runs for three years now, is arguably the biggest recruit this area has seen in years in terms of the amount of colleges that would like the 6-foot-1, 215-pound back to put on their hat come National Signing Day.

Then there is Hill, who is only a junior but has already verbally committed to Ohio State. Between the two of them in the Hubbard backfield and West Virginia-bound lineman Matt Jones creating space for them up front, this could be the best rushing team in the state next year.

SLEEPER: This is the one question that everyone asks each year but no one ever gets right: Who will be the sleeper team of 2014?

There were a few teams last year that got to put on Cinderella’s shoe. The first was the Chalker Wildcats, who made their first playoff appearance since 2001 and the second overall in school history. Then there was the Jackson-Milton Blue Jays, who won six games and had their best season since 1997.

So, who will be it this year? Which team will be the one that no one talks about in July but will be in conversations come November?

My guess at this point: the LaBrae Vikings.

Last year under first-year coach John Armeni, the Vikings posted a 5-5 record. First-year starting quarterback Justin Jenkins got familiar with life under center and the team gelled under its new coach.

While LaBrae will have to put up some more points on the board (the team averaged just 18.7 per game last season), the Vikings return a tough defensive unit led by Charles Pifer and Andrew Cree. They allowed around 25 points per game last year, but that also was because they played teams such as Liberty and Girard, which were so prolific on offense last season.

Will it be the Vikings who play Cinderella this year? Maybe. Will it be another team? Possibly. Will it be another fun high school football season? Without a doubt.

And it will be here in less than two months.

IN 48 DAYS: It’s the day high school football fans wait for all year and makes the Tribune Chronicle sports staff lose sleep – the debut of the 2014 High School Football Preview.

This is an exciting year for fans, as this year’s book will come to you in your Sunday Tribune Chronicle. That’s right. If you buy the paper on Sunday, Aug. 24, the football preview will be yours to read.

The book offers position breakdowns for 34 area schools, the entire 2014 schedule, fun facts that even the most die-hard fans might not know about their squads and of course, a few extras that will serve as a surprise when the book hits the stands.

High school football is right around the corner. Enjoy the rest of the summer because it’s almost time to report to camp.