Eastmont’s Wesley McIlwaine returns an interception for a touchdown last season against Wilson at Eastmont.

Their quarterback and top running back return, two all-league linemen are back and the league’s defensive MVP returns with four all-league teammates.

So, yes, it’s no stretch to install the Eastmont Wildcats as favorites to repeat as CBBN champions this fall.

Across the Columbia River, Wenatchee believes it has a shot at unseating its rival and neighbor and if it comes down to these two the season finale will decide it on Nov. 7. Eastmont finished last year’s unbeaten league season with a 14-13 squeaker over Wenatchee.

Expect Sunnyside, last year’s runner-up, to cause problems with a dynamic two-way talent in Mike Rivera and five all-league returners on defense.

Those were the big three a year ago and should be again. Thank goodness the league will be back to two state berths this season.

Eastmont had the league’s best defense last year, allowing just 842 yards in the air all season, and reigning MVP Wesley McIlwaine will anchor that crew again at cornerback. The Wildcats will be very difficult to throw on again with McIlwaine joined by two other all-league returners in the secondary.

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The Wildcats leaned on that defense heavily last year with a less-than-flashy run-based offense. But they have a 1,000-yard running back in Carson Talley, a 6-foot-6 quarterback in Carson Everhart and one of the league’s best linemen in Carsen Paine.

Wenatchee’s offense should light up some scoreboards this season with quarterback Camden Sirmon, who threw for 1,222 yards as a sophomore, Harvard-bound tight end Riley Kunz, and a 15-touchdown running back in Nathan Blauman. The Panthers also have two returning all-league linemen to pave the way.

Eastmont will host three nonleague games in September and won’t open CBBN play until Oct. 4. Wenatchee opens its season with four consecutive games at the Apple Bowl and will play a total of six home games, but the showdown at the end will be at Eastmont.

In the last three years nobody has more CBBN wins than Sunnyside, and the Grizzlies will definitely contend again with a defense that will rival Eastmont’s. The Grizzlies, who were stung the most by the CBBN’s single-berth season in 2018, missed the league title by one score, falling to Eastmont 34-27.

Sunnyside hosts its first two league games against West Valley and Eisenhower and gets Eastmont and Wenatchee back-to-back on Oct. 18 and 25, respectively.