Football season across the area kicks off Friday, following months of preparation from area athletes and coaches.
There will be a lot of talent in the I-Meck Conference this season, led by Mallard Creek and Vance.
The Mavericks are again favored to win the title, returning several nationally-ranked players, but the Cougars aren't far behind.
North Mecklenburg, Mooresville and Hopewell have returning talent at key positions, which could position them to battle to finish in the upper half of the conference.
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A big question for the Titans is how well and how quickly they will adjust to new coach David Johnson.
Hough, in its second year as a program, is looking for its first I-Meck win, but could surprise after returning nearly all of its players from last season. Lake Norman hopes to grow more competitive after only winning two games last year.
On the west side of Lake Norman, East Lincoln returns key players and hope to battle Lincolnton for a Southern Piedmont Conference title. Lake Norman Charter will join the SPC in its second varsity season.
In private school play, SouthLake Christian should have a good team, returning an experienced team, while Davidson Day will look to be competitive in its first year of varsity play.