[Mary Beth Nolan]
A notable addition on Oswego's schedule is in Week 1. With the SPC reducing the number of crossover games, Oswego will host DuPage Valley Conference power Neuqua Valley on Aug. 28. It is the first meeting between the two programs since 2004, and provides an immediate test. Neuqua, 9-2 last season, has made the playoffs in nine of the last 10 seasons.
"They're one of those programs, if you told me they lost every single starter, I'm still not taking anything for granted," Cooney said. "They're right down the road, we were looking for some stiff competition so we can figure out real quick what we are. They fit the bill."
The other non-SPC West game that stands out is Week 3, when Joliet West and Indiana-bound running back Trenten Howland comes to Oswego. Joliet West has been a tricky matchup in recent years for Oswego, the Panthers pulling away last year for a 23-14 win.
"They're a team that always gives us fits," Cooney said. "Trenten Howland, we'll have our hands full with him."
Like last season, the schedule ends with the SPC West gauntlet of Plainfield North, Oswego East, Yorkville and Minooka, all playoff teams in 2019.
"Oswego East and Minooka is always right there, and Plainfield North had a dominant sophomore team last year," Cooney said. "Every single one of those teams will be a challenge, especially when I don't know what we look like."
An Early Take
Oswego's program has been a model of consistency under Cooney, with either nine or 10 wins and at least one playoff victory in each of his eight seasons.
Don't expect that to be any different, even in a calendar year marked by change.
With experience back at every unit, particularly with the return of Pradel at quarterback and the presence of guys like Hess, Aidan Tweedy, Cikauskas and Egly, and a tried and true way of doing things, Oswego is the kind of team tailor-made to hit the ground running amid the uncertainty of summer training.
The defense should be stout with Brown back at linebacker and DeMarco on the defensive backfield, and Hampton figures to have a breakout season as Pradel's No. 1 target.
Everything seems to be set up for a return to the top of the Southwest Prairie, a return to the playoffs and potentially a deeper postseason run.