There will be a new look to the independent teams in the metro this season. After spending six years in the North Suburban, Columbia Heights switches to an independent schedule. Also, Spectrum returns after playing an abbreviated schedule in 2009. Meantime, Becker takes up residence in a new conference outside the metro.

BECKER BULLDOGS

Coach: Dwight Lundeen

2011 record: 6-4

• The Bulldogs have switched conferences once again and are now members of the Granite Ridge. Expect the passing game to generate big numbers because of quarterback Tommy Benson, who threw 25 TD passes last year, and his top receivers, Joel Hopkins and Brett Watercott.

COLUMBIA HEIGHTS HYLANDERS

Coach: Matt Townsend

2011 record: 0-9

• The Hylanders have had six consecutive losing seasons. They haven't won more than three games in any of those seasons, going 7-48. Senior captains Joey Ungemach (guard) and Sam Araya (cornerback) are among the five returning starters.

HOWARD LAKE-WAVERLY- WINSTED LAKERS

Coach: George Montgomery

2011 record: 2-7

• The Lakers haven't been above .500 since the 2006 season (7-3). This year's roster has 12 seniors, all linemen or receivers. Junior running back/linebacker Joe Aalid will be counted on heavily on both sides of the ball.

ROCKFORD ROCKETS

Coach: Dan Houghton

2011 record: 5-6

• A year ago, Rockford registered its most wins since it went 8-4 in 2007. The Rockets have eight starters returning on offense, including junior quarterback Brock Deering (6-5, 175), team offensive MVP last season. Houghton's biggest concern will be on defense, where only three starters return. He does have back four players who saw significant playing time on defense.

SPECTRUM STING

Coach: Brett Wedlund

2011 record: NA

• The Sting will field its own team for the first time since Spectrum went 2-3 in 2009. Many of the players have not played football before, or not in several years. The team has only 20 players in grades nine through 12, so depth could be an issue.

WEST LUTHERAN WARRIORS

Coach: Nathan Veach

2011 record: 5-2

• The Warriors posted their first winning season in school history last season, but Veach could have a tough time maintaining that momentum in 2012. He lost six of his nine starters, including his top skill-position players except for junior quarterback/linebacker Nathan Kiefer. He does have 35 players out for this year's squad, a high turnout for the school.

RON HAGGSTROM