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Preseason Top 20: No. 1 Maine South

Maine South will be gunning for its fourth consecutive state championship. Scott Powers for ESPNChicago.com

Last season: 12-2 overall, Central Suburban South 5-0, won the Class 8A state championship, ranked No. 3 in the final ESPNChicago.com 2010 poll

Season ahead: Maine South is ready to put its focus back on the football field.

It was a stormy offseason for the Hawks following their third consecutive Class 8A state championship. The IHSA placed the program on probation, took away home playoff games and suspended coach David Inserra for one game following a lengthy investigation, which found Maine South had created counterfeit sideline passes to the state championship game and demonstrated unsportsmanlike behavior at the awards ceremony.

Maine South defensive coordinator Rick Magsamen was also suspended one game by the IHSA, but he has since left the program and joined Elk Grove's staff.

"Personally for both myself and our staff, it was difficult," Inserra said. "We're learning from it and trying to move on. Everybody's got to get better. We're not trying to dwell on it."

With the incidents behind them, the Hawks do have plenty of reason to look forward to 2011. The Hawks return a bulk of last year's state championship team, including its star quarterback Matt Alviti, running back Paul Preston and linebackers Tyler Fahey and Luke Lenti.

While some coaches don't like discussing repeating as champions, Inserra has embraced it. He hopes his team wants to win its fourth consecutive title and isn't shy to say so.

"The kids have taken it on as a motivation to work that much harder," Inserra said. "We talk about opportunities. This is an opportunity that not many kids get to win a fourth state championship."

Inserra has expanded his responsibilities this season as well. He will also be the team's defensive coordinator.

"Most coaches don't have the luxury of having both an offensive and defensive coordinator," Inserra said. "I accept the role readily. I don't want it; I want the coach [Magsamen] with me, but we'll go with it and I'll put my own twist on it. We won't change much."

Star power: Matt Alviti may become the biggest name in the state pretty quickly. The junior quarterback has already won a state championship and has offers from Illinois, Northwestern and Notre Dame. He and Maine South's offense are expected to take it up another notch or two this season. "He's so comfortable in the pocket," Inserra said. "He absolutely understands the offense. He just gets it. He can read defenses."

Breakout performer: Junior Pat Maloney got a taste of varsity last season and even played three different positions on the offensive line in the state title game. He'll be looked to this season as the team's starting offensive tackle and will also start as its defensive tackle.

Defensive difference-maker: Senior linebacker Tyler Fahey was named to the ESPNChicago.com all-area team last season. He had 81 tackles, 13 tackles for a loss, seven sacks, four interceptions, three fumble recoveries and two defensive touchdowns. "He's just such a leader on defense," Inserra said. "He just really understands the game."

Newcomer to watch: Juniors Mike Rubino and Dan Poulos will be asked to help out on the offensive line this season. Rubino is a 6-4, 210-pound center. Poulos is a 6-2, 250-pound right guard.

Schedule breakdown: Maine South has a strong non-conference schedule again with Warren and Wheaton Warrenville South in the first two weeks. The question is whether the Central Suburban South can give Maine South a game this year. The Hawks haven't lost in the Central Suburban South since 2000. They travel to New Trier and host Glenbrook South this season.

Key game: Sept. 2 vs. Wheaton Warrenville South -- Maine South was embarrassed by Wheaton Warrenville South on national television last season. The Hawks lost 44-7 on the road. This is their opportunity for revenge, and a chance to prove they're the top team in the state. "The Wheaton game is huge because it's two of the best teams in the state," Inserra said. "We're probably not going to see them in the playoffs. You want to have those bragging rights for yourself."

What they're saying: "We don't mind it," said Inserra of having five two-way players. "We love it in fact."