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Many players in the Homestead program weren't born the last time the Highlanders didn't win the North Shore title, with the streak reaching 16 straight years last year. With the departure of Germantown from the North Shore, one major contender for that annual crown is out of the picture, though Whitefish Bay will be plenty strong this season. The league has a very new look, now with nine teams and including newcomers Hartford, Slinger, West Bend West and West Bend East.

Homestead

Last year: 11-2 (7-0 in conference)

Outcome: Lost in Level 4 of Division 2 playoffs to Monona Grove, 35-6.

Coach: Dave Keel

ALL-CONFERENCE RETURNEES

First team: Bradley Woldt (RB/P), Jordan Schroeder (DT), Michael Bruner (OLB), Ben Price (DB)

Second team: Matt Hartleib (WR), Julius Wilkerson (DB)

Honorable mention: Ben Price (K), Jake Raddatz* (DE)

First-team losses: Jack Rapala (OL), Jack Henrichs (OL)

Outlook: The Highlanders ran into some injury trouble in the playoffs last year when quarterback Eric Zoeller was lost in Level 3, leading to a gutsy showing by Bradley Woldt when he switched to quarterback. Woldt ran for 1,300 yards last year and helped pilot yet another league title, a staggering 16th in a row for the Highlanders. Though three All-Conference linemen graduated, the team returns a loaded defense. That includes Mike Bruner, a linebacker who initially committed to Iowa before reopening his recruitment. Jordan Schroeder leads the defensive front.

Whitefish Bay

Last year: 8-4 (5-2 in conference)

Outcome: Lost in Level 3 of Division 2 playoffs to Homestead, 37-24

Coach: Jake Wolter

ALL-CONFERENCE RETURNEES

First team: Alex Anthony (WR), Cade Garcia (QB), Jordan Riley (DT)

Second team: Carson Kimple (OL/ILB), Bo Bassindale (RB), Zach Lichosik (K/P), Brady Weas (DE), Thomas Brunner* (OLB)

Honorable mention: George Beatty (OL), Case Fleck (DB)

First-team losses: Michael Kirkendoll (WR/DB)

Outlook: Bay came heartbreakingly close to topping Homestead in the playoffs last year after a fun season in which the team opened with a narrow miss against one of the state's best teams, Brookfield Central. So much talent from that team is back, highlighted by the return of its quarterback Cade Garcia (2,558 passing yards), top receiver Alex Anthony (1,145 receiving yards) and running back Bo Bassindale (998 yards). It's going to be another good year for the Dukes, and they are unquestionably the strongest contender to end Homestead's streak of dominance in the North Shore. The two teams meet Sept. 15.

Port Washington

Last year: 5-5 (4-3 in conference)

Outcome: Lost in Level 1 of Division 2 playoffs to Kewaskum, 39-22

Coach: John Bunyan

ALL-CONFERENCE RETURNEES

First team: Jake Lippe (WR)*

Honorable mention: Caleb Tydrick (K), Michael Murphy (OLB), Jake Lippe (DB)*

First-team losses: Tyler Beach (OL), Matt Ruppel (RB/ILB)

Outlook: The Pirates lost their quarterback and running back to graduation, not to mention offensive lineman Tyler Beach, the North Shore Offensive Player of the Year now competing for the University of Wisconsin. Junior Jacob Lippe could be one of the league's more exciting talents, but it remains to be seen if Port can replicate its playoff appearance that it achieved last year. It stands to reason that the legacy North Shore teams should have an edge early over the Wisconsin Little Ten given the strengths of those conferences in years past.

Cedarburg

Last year: 4-6 (4-3 in league)

Outcome: Lost in Level 1 of Division 2 playoffs to Brookfield East, 38-8

Coach: Brian Leair

ALL-CONFERENCE RETURNEES

Second team: Jason Miller (OL)

First-team losses: Alex Kluck (TE), Joel Durham (DE)

Outlook: Six starters on offense are back for the Bulldogs but just three on the other side of the ball, and the streak of 12 straight seasons making the playoffs will be given a test — the team barely survived last year's North Shore to get into the dance before falling to eventual state champion Brookfield East in Level 1. 

Grafton

Last year: 1-8 (1-6 in league)

Outcome: Did not make playoffs

Coach: Shaun Behrend

ALL-CONFERENCE RETURNEES

Honorable mention: Jack Orlowski (P)*

First-team losses: Jalen Turan (DE)

Outlook: Grafton's lone win last year came against Nicolet in a tight 25-22 decision, but the Black Hawks still showed extremely well at times, including a 42-40 loss to Level 3 qualifier Whitefish Bay in the final week of the season. Grafton lost by three points to Cedarburg, another playoff qualifier. The squad struggled on defense last year.

Nicolet

Last year: 1-8 (0-7 in league)

Outcome: Did not make playoffs

Coach: Al Moroder

ALL-CONFERENCE RETURNEES

Honorable mention: John Quam (OL)*

First-team losses: None

Outlook: Nicolet opened the year with an encouraging win over Waukesha South, the program's first win since 2012 (the team did not play a varsity schedule in 2014), and the Knights showed they weren't the walkover they have been in years past with some reasonably competitive games. They're still a long way from their first playoff visit since 1989, but we'll say the rest of the North Shore will see major strides taken this season.

*Junior in 2017-18
**Sophomore in 2017-18 (rest are seniors)

Rest of the league

Schools outside the Now Newspapers coverage zone

Hartford figures to be the best of the Little Ten transplants into the realigned North Shore. Six starters return, including quarterback Tristan Bradley, and second-year coach John Redders brings back a team that won a playoff game last year for the first season since 2010.

Slinger struggled in the WLT last year after a quality three-year run of playoff trips, but dual threat quarterback Tyler Evans is back, as is the team's top returning rusher and receiver, Jason Klink.

West Bend East and West Bend West have struggled in recent years in the Wisconsin Little Ten, a conference that included Oconomowoc, Beaver Dam, Wisconsin Lutheran, Watertown and the four newcomers to the North Shore. Rushing duo Kyle Yochem and Tony Bland return to East, while West returns two members of its offensive line but just seven starters overall between the offense and defense.

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