Bandy Mataska already has his eyes on opening night. "Friday night lights," he says. "Don't get no better than that."
His Petrolia Pirates are ready to build off of recent strong starts. They've gone 2-1, then 3-0 to start their past two seasons, but couldn't keep the momentum going.
In last year's case, it all came down to one main factor: they just couldn't stay healthy.
Head Coach Byron Gravitt said, "It's probably more injuries than I've ever had in my thirteen years coaching."
"Lotta kids got hurt, this past season," junior Jonathan Baker agreed. "If we didn't get hurt, I thought we'd have been pretty good. We would have possibly went further."
This year, the Pirates are focused on eliminating those injuries with better conditioning.
"I think we're all trying to work on our own parts that are hurting," Mataska said. "Jonathan's working on his shoulder, I'm working on my ankle, Dane's working on his shoulders."
Dane is sophomore Dane Williams. He's moving from wide receiver to quarterback this year. He was a star point guard for his father, coach Gordon Williams, on the basketball court as a freshman... And he sees some parallels between the positions.
"Seeing the field, and seeing the court a little bit, they're somewhat the same," Williams said. "Seeing holes, and stuff."
Gravitt said he thinks Williams can be an effective dual-threat. "I think Dane will open up a whole lot more with his feet [compared to last year's offense]," Gravitt said. "He throws the ball decent. We expect him to be able to get in space and be able to run the ball a little bit more effectively than we had in the past."
But definitely the biggest weapon for the Pirates is their do-everything junior, Mataska. He'll line up some in the backfield, and some out wide as a receiver, and he's a monster on defense.
"He is the beast," Williams said. "Bandy is the heart of the defense."
Their coach agrees.
"Last year, as a sophomore, he really came on, on the offensive side of the ball," Gravitt said. "He's always been a good defensive player, but last year he really made some plays offensively for us, that helped us win some games and helped get us out of some bad situations."
For Bandy, the goal is simple: get the Pirates back to the playoffs for the first time since 2009.
"Oh, it means a lot," he said. "You know, we haven't made the playoffs in quite some time, and that would be just, a dealbreaker right there, Petrolia sneaking in the playoffs."
The Pirates will open the season August 29th at home against Archer City.
Petrolia Pirates 2014 Football Schedule
Aug. 29 vs Archer City, 7:30
Sep. 5 vs Olney, 7:30
Sep. 13 vs Bells, at Denton's C.H. Collins Complex, 2 p.m. (Saturday)
Sep. 19 at Chico, 7:30
Sep. 26 vs Windthorst, 7
Oct. 3 BYE
Oct. 10 at Seymour*, 7
Oct. 17 vs Hamlin*, 7
Oct. 24 at Munday*, 7
Oct. 31 at Haskell*, 7
Nov. 7 vs Electra*, 7