What is always an accurate cross-section of the state - the New Haven Register's list of Connecticut's top 30 high school football players - lists two from the Eastern Connecticut Conference this season: lineman Jake Basilica of Montville and lineman Kyle Wilson of Ledyard.
But while players and teams from this corner of the state are traditionally overlooked, a team or two always manages to represent the conference in the state finals and even win now and then.
The 2012 season, which begins tonight, should be no exception.
Several teams throughout the ECC return quality players, perhaps giving the league decent representation in the state playoffs.
"I think you look at us, NFA, New London, Waterford and Montville," Ledyard coach Jim Buonocore said. "That makes for a good league with that many good teams."
Buonocore's team may be the league's best. Ledyard, picked No. 8 in the state preseason media poll, returns its entire offensive line and quarterback John Rainey to a team that made the Class M state championship game a year ago.
The Colonels, who won the ECC Medium Division in 2011, open tonight at home against Waterford, also a playoff team from last season. Waterford, which gets to play on its home field this fall for the first time since 2010, plays its fourth straight game in the Ledyard-Waterford rivalry at Bill Mignault Field.
Ledyard and Waterford join Montville in the highly competitive ECC Medium. Ledyard, with its returnees, will have to work to have the league's best offensive and defensive lines. That's because Montville returns Basilica, Isaiah Holloway and Will Thompson, three quality players.
Norwich Free Academy returns leading rusher Marcus Outlow and leading receiver Ryer Caruso and could be the favorite in the ECC Large Division. New London begins the Duane Maranda Era with an impressive number of skill position players, but with many questions on the offensive and defensive lines.
The Whalers open Friday night at home against Killingly.
Fitch, too, has several players back, including running back Saffwan Davis. East Lyme, whose home field is undergoing a facelift (new turf, lights, etc.) may not get to use it this year.
Griswold, which has been the class of the Small Division in recent years, will be challenged by Killingly and Stonington.
Dates to remember this season: All state quarterfinal games will be held Tuesday, Nov. 27 at the site of the higher ranked team. Semifinal games will be Saturday, Dec. 1 and the finals will be Friday and Saturday, Dec. 7-8 at Rentschler Field, one game on Friday evening at 7 p.m. and three Saturday at 10 a.m., 1:30 p.m. and 5 p.m.