Polo football coach Andrew Hofer knows that he has to have his team prepared each week in order to stand a chance in an NUIC Upstate conference that he believes is one of the best Class 1A football conferences in the state.
"I think that the history of our conference shows that we're one of the best," said Hofer, who is entering his fourth season as the Marcos' head coach. "It's typical for us to play good conference games week in and week out. You have to be ready."
Hofer led the Marcos to a 4-5 record a year ago, while playing the toughest schedule in the conference when looking at opponents' won-loss records. Polo's opponents finished the year 47-41, tops in the league.
But when looking over the 2014-15 schedule, Hofer sees room for improvement despite who lines up across from his squad.
"Looking at our record, obviously we're not satisfied," Hofer said. "This season, we have a nice mix of upperclassmen and a good group of incoming juniors. Everyone is really excited."
The Marcos open the season at home against East Dubuque, a team that went 7-3 a season ago, before making road trips to AFC, and last season's conference winner Stockton in Week 3. Another tough road game falls in Week 6 against Eastland-Pearl City, which went 10-1 last season.
Polo closes it's season against three teams with losing records.
"We feel that it doesn't really matter what the week is," said Hofer, when asked when he preferred to face tough teams. "The best come at you often, and every Friday night you have to be ready to play.
Milledgeville, which finished last season at 3-6, doesn't have any extended road trips or home stretches this season, switching from home and away each week. The Missiles hope to pick up wins early in the season in hopes to withstand a tough back-half of the schedule. Milledgeville closes with three of its last four games against teams with winning records last season.
AFC suffered a down year last season at 1-8, but figures to add a few more wins this season. The Raiders open the season by playing two of their first three games on the road, before coming home for four out of five games.
The Raiders face two teams that had winning records last season during that final stretch in Stockton (11-1) and East Dubuque (7-3). It is in this stretch of the season that the Raiders can rely on to put everything together.
One game that stands out is the September 26 matchup against Pecatonica, which has gone 0-10 the past two seasons.
"You're always going to have a conference game or a crossover nearly every week," Hofer said. "It's what makes it so good."