Given what there is on paper, Moses Lake shouldn't be the favorite to win the Columbia Basin Big Nine title.

Nobody should be, for that matter.

But the Chiefs will take that preseason pole position because Todd Griffith's program has produced the last three league champions and has lost just one CBBN game during that span.

Every coach in the league will tell you it's a wide-open race, and the chase will be even more dramatic if, as expected, the CBBN gets just one state berth.

"Anyone can jump up and win the conference," said West Valley coach Dan Eyman. "It will be a crazy season. With only one berth there will be very little room for error."

The hesitation with Moses Lake is that 10 of 11 players who earned first- or second-team honors last season graduated and that includes defensive MVP Hunter Cruz.

The Chiefs will rebuild around their defense with all-leaguers Josh Williams and Carson Evans returning from a crew that led the league last year and shut out Wenatchee, Davis and West Valley.

The other consideration for Moses Lake, in addition to the strong tradition, is that its junior varsity and freshman teams combined to win 12 games a year ago.

"I truly feel like it's an absolute crapshoot this year," said Eisenhower coach Gary Jimenez. "The top two teams from last year, Moses Lake and West Valley, both lost tons of key seniors. Wenatchee and Eastmont have talent on their rosters. Anyone could claim that lone berth."

West Valley certainly did lose some key seniors, but the Rams have some key pieces back on offense. Reggie Harris is the CBBN's top returning running back, Jack Van De Brake is among the top-rated receivers and there's solid experience on the line. It also helps to have the league's best placekicker back in Colby Kitt.

Eastmont made the biggest jump last year, going from 1-5 in 2016 to 4-2, but the rushing offense that dominated the league last year, averaging 270 yards a game, returns just one all-leaguer. The Wildcats' most high-end experience is on defense with three all-CBBN returners.

Sunnyside's resurgent program has won eight of its last 12 league games and the Grizzlies will try to keep that momentum going with another stout defense and an offense featuring all-league defensive back Derrick Escamilla moving to quarterback and receiver Mike Rivera coming off a 48-catch season.

Eisenhower could be capable of the same jump Eastmont made, following up a 1-5 league campaign with six returning all-leaguers.

The Cadets had the lowest-rated offense in the CBBN last year but they have a trio of two-time all-CBBN veterans in receiver Drew Reyes and linemen Javier Castro and Chance Ward. They will also have a third-year quarterback in senior Drew Kornegay, who has amassed 3,118 yards and 30 touchdowns in two seasons.

Davis also appears ripe to rise with three all-CBBN returners on each side of the ball, a crew anchored by three-year standout Ivory Evans-Kimble at tight end and defensive end.

After three weeks of nonleague games, the Big Nine will jump in the deep end on Sept. 21 and the compelling opener will be Sunnyside at West Valley.

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