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The Elite Eight.

Usually the phrase is reserved for March, when the NCAA tournament is reaching it's apex.

But in August, it's a part of the process to reach the state football championship game, held his year at Memorial Stadium in Champaign.

Last year, the Herald & Review area had four teams — Tuscola, Maroa-Forsyth, Shelbyville and Vandalia — in the Elite Eight, or the quarterfinal round of the IHSA playoffs.

Here are seven area teams who could make a push to the quarterfinal round as practice officially begins Monday morning.

Tuscola

It's easy to count the Warriors out because of the players Tuscola lost from last year's Class 1A state runner up team.

Gone is Hunter Woodard, the Oklahoma State offensive lineman, gone is Dalton Hoel and Noah Pierce, two playmakers on both sides on the ball.

But Tuscola brings back standout lineman Brayden VonLanken, quarterback Luke Sluder, linebacker Will Little and lineman CJ Picazo.

There will be holes in the starting lineup for coach Andy Romine to fill, but Tuscola has faced the task before and has the talent to do it again.

LAST YEAR: Lost to Lena-Winslow 21-20 in the Class 1A state championship game.

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Tuscola High School's quarterback Luke Sluder (7) celebrates after scoring a touchdown against Carrollton last year in the Class 1A Quarterfinals at Tuscola. 

Maroa-Forsyth

Josh Jostes plans for the playoff, and more times than not finds himself deep into the postseason.

Maroa lost star running back Deondre Gregory and receiver Aaron Inda, but have more than enough talent returning.

At the forefront is quarterback Ian Benner, who had a sensational sophomore season last year. The offensive line is strong, anchored by Lane Ohlemeyer and Jostes' system usually finds someone who will standout at skill positions on both sides of the ball.

Don't rule out the Trojans, who have been to two consecutive state championship games.

LAST YEAR: Lost to Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley 38-32 in the Class 2A state championship game.

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Maroa-Forsyth quarterback Ian Benner returns after a standout sophomore year.

St. Teresa

Jacardia Wright.

Few teams have had an answer for the senior running back who is still deliberating over the numerous Division I offers he has garnered.

It's not a one-man show, but Wright is the star of the play. Quarterback Jack Hogan had a strong year last year, using his arms and legs effectively and building a chemistry with a host of returning receivers, including Tyler Phillips and Michael Less.

The questions will come on the offensive line, replacing a class that paved the way for Wright and protected Hogan. Beau Branyan, who is now at Southern Illinois University is gone, and the Bulldogs will have to replace key positions up front.

St. Teresa lost in the second round of last season's Class 3A playoffs, and it will be interesting to see what class the Bulldogs land in this year, possibly in 2A.

LAST YEAR: Lost to Carlinville 40-36 in the Class 3A second round.

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CLAY JACKSON, HERALD & REVIEW St. Teresa High School player of the Year Jacardia Wright

Vandalia

Class 3A is an awfully tough crowd, but the Vandals advanced to last season's quarterfinals.

Marcus Zimmerman was an electric receiver last year for Vandalia, but has since graduated.

Running back Trevor Smalls, who packs a punch from the backfield, returns along with Matthew Wells at quarterback. 

Smalls is on the cusp of the school's all-time rushing record entering his senior year.

Coach Jason Clay hopes receivers Blake Morrison and Caleb Slater continue to improve and can collectively Zimmerman's production.

LAST YEAR: Lost to Anna-Jonesboro 56-41 in the Class 3A quarterfinals.

Argenta-Oreana

The Bombers have a new turf, but the same high-powered offense.

Last year, then-sophomore quarterback Josh Williams played like he was in a video game, running rampant on opposing defenses and launching the ball around the field.

Argenta has the Stanley brothers, Makail and Malik, in the backfield along with Skyler Peterson.

The Bombers will need to replace hard-nosed linebacker Trevor Webb on defense, but the offense can go far.

LAST YEAR: Lost to Athens 34-14 in the Class 1A second round.

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Argenta-Oreana’s Josh Williams made plays with his arms and his legs last year.

Taylorville

Brandon Odam to Justin Wright. Rinse. Repeat.

The connection between the two has been strong for years, and will likely be a key cog in the offense this season.

Odam's arm is among the best in the area and could lead Taylorville on a deep postseason run.

The Tornadoes will need to replace speedy running back Evan Champley, but the offense will be electric and Odam has the ability to air it out in a wide-open Apollo Conference.

LAST YEAR: Lost to Herscher 43-6 in the Class 4A second round.

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Brandon Odam, Taylorville (copy)

Brandon Odam has grown in each of his seasons at quarterback for the Tornadoes.

Monticello

Cully Welter has proven he's a winner.

The Sages lose a lot from last year's team, including receiver Dylan Thomas, who is a walk-on at the University of Illinois. 

Monticello lost some skill players, and depth on the offensive line, but quarterback Braden Snyder returns after a good junior season and Asher Bradd is a strong receiver.

Alek Bundy will patrol the defensive secondary for a team that as its eyes on an Illini Prairie Conference championship.

LAST YEAR: Lost to Byron 21-20 in the Class 3A second round.

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Braden Snyder returns for the Sages.

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Contact Joey Wagner at (217) 421-6970. Follow him on Twitter: @mrwagner25

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Reporter

Reporter for Lee Enterprises Central Illinois.

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