Leavitt, the defending Class C state champion, graduated 20 players from last season and won’t have its usual bruising line, and yet …

“I think we’ll be a lot better in Week 9 than we are in Week 1 or 2,” said Coach Mike Hathaway.

Meanwhile, the top three teams in the West look like Spruce Mountain, Cape Elizabeth and Wells. Leavitt could be fourth or back on top. It’s that iffy.

The Hornets do return all-purpose back Billy Bedard, Mitchel Davis, a 6-foot-5, 230-pound two-way end, and Will Parkin, a three-year starter who will play center and linebacker.

Hathaway feels his junior class could be as talented over the next year as last year’s senior class, which won it all.

“They have a lot of potential,” Hathaway said.

Spruce Mountain, which went 8-3 last season, losing to Leavitt in the regional final, returns eight starters on offense and seven on defense. In quarterback Peter Theriault, halfback Matt Vigue and receiver Deonte Ring, the team has three of the top skill players in the league.

Cape Elizabeth could be ready to challenge after playing tough against Leavitt in the regional semifinals. The top returnees are running back Jack Drinan, quarterback Noah Wolfinger, fullback/linebacker Christian Lavalle and receiver Ethan Murphy. Cape is known for tough defense and offensive balance.

“I think the road still goes through (Leavitt),” said Coach Aaron Filieo. “I know they graduated a lot, but until someone knocks them off, they’re still the team to beat.”

Cape opens Friday at Leavitt, then plays at Wells and is home against Spruce Mountain in the first four weeks.

“We like to load up early, right out of the gate,” Filieo joked.

“We’ll try to figure out what we do well. “We won’t know completely until later in the season. We have some holes to fill on the line and on the defensive side. We have the ability to throw and we have some good receivers. The key is being balanced.”

Wells has a veteran backfield. Nate Booth is returning at quarterback. Chris Carney and Mike Curtis are the running backs.

Despite graduating all-purpose player Jake Moody, Wells Coach Tim Roche said a new season is always exciting.

“We have some talented skill players who should be fun to watch,” he said.

Winslow and Waterville look like the best in Eastern Class C. They met in the regional final last year; Winslow won, 47-18.

The Black Raiders have one of the state’s top running backs in Dylan Hapworth, who gained 108 yards on 15 carries in the state final. He scored on a 34-yard run, ran in a 2-point conversion and kicked a 30-yard field goal.

Waterville has a new coach in Matt Gilley, replacing the retired Frank Knight. The Panthers have a veteran line that should give running back Daniel Pooler openings.