Here are five things to know about the 2011 Columbia Basin Big Nine 3A football season:
1) The playoff scenario will mirror last season, with the top four teams in league advancing to regional games. The league champ will face the No. 4 team, while the CBBN No. 2 will play the GSL No. 2, and CBBN No. 3 the GSL No. 1.
Whenever the CBBN (or Big Nine) has been split into a true 3A/4A league (equally filling out both classes), Kamiakin has made the 3A state playoffs (2006-07 and 2010).
The 2007 season was a big year for the Kennewick schools, with all three qualifying for state and Southridge and Kennewick reaching the second round.
Kamiakin is the preseason favorite to win league according to most coaches. The Braves lost an incredible class of seniors but appear to be reloaded.
No. 2 on down is where it gets a little cloudy. Most coaches rank Kennewick and Southridge high but say watch out for Hanford.
2) Eastmont, Pasco and Sunnyside all rank in the bottom half of the league. However, no one would be surprised to see any of those teams jump up and contend for the postseason.
West Valley still has a lot to prove to area coaches.
Last season had the feel of a passing league, and the numbers back that up: nearly 16,000 yards combined passing vs. 12,155 rushing during the regular season. There were only two 1,000-yard rushers, and just two more threatened the mark.
Meanwhile, two QBs topped 2,000 yards, including Southridge returner Matt Mendenhall with a league-high 2,602 yards. Four more topped 1,000 yards.
This season, offenses figure to come back down to earth, partly because of the departure of some big-play receivers and strong-armed QBs. But also because this looks like a good year for talent on the offensive line.
"I think it will be run-dominated," said Lions coach Bill Templeton, in his 10th season and tied with Sunnyside's Mark Marro for longest-tenured head coaches in the league.
"All teams like having a run game early in the season," said third-year Pasco coach Dustin Lamb. "Some teams find out they do it because of what they have up front. Some teams find out they can't because of what's up front."
4) The league has several stat leaders coming back.
Joining Mendenhall as proven performers are Sunnyside's Steven Monterrey -- who led the league in all-purpose yards with 1,634 yards -- and Kennewick's Grant Woods, who led all kick returners with a 33.7 average.
Mendenhall also led the league in total yards with 2,548.
5) Six players return with two or more interceptions from last season, led by Ronnie Roosendaal's four for West Valley.
However, two of those players -- Kennewick's Bryce Leavitt (3) and Sunnyside's Joseph Contreras (2) -- probably won't play much defense as they take over at QB.