Last year was not a typical season for the Seymour Panthers. Following seven straight seasons of at least eight wins and a playoff berth, they failed to make the playoffs, finishing 2-8 last year.
Coming into the 2015 season, senior leadership is going to be big for this young team.
"We've got to have a lot of leadership," says senior lineman Cesar Martinez. "Last year we didn't have very much, with only having a couple of seniors. And we've worked so hard over the summer and hopefully it pays off."
"We have a bit more leadership, and we worked real hard in the offseason and got better," says fellow senior Slade Fox, who plays receiver and safety. "We had a lot of young guys last year that had to step up, and this year they have a little bit more experience. We're coming in with a little more feet in the water."
With better leadership and a strong off-season, the coaches say they can already see a difference in the team.
"One of the things that sticks out to me is, the guys are moving around better than they were last year," says second-year Head Coach Hugh Farmer. "Also there is a lot of affirmation from those older guys to the younger guys, and they are working together and a great leadership core coming back in. I think a lot of that has to do with the hard work they have put in and I think they feel confident about that because of that work."
On offense, the Panthers bring back quarterback Blaine Barton and a lot of weapons to use. But if they expect to be better they will have to limit mistakes.
"Last year we made a lot of big plays, but we made a lot of mistakes," Coach Farmer said. "And like I told these guys, if we want to be successful, we've got to limit mistakes. We can't go out there and be careless. We need to be fearless, but we can't be careless."
The team has a ton of faith in the offense and in Barton, the man running the show under center.
"With Blaine, he's a real good quarterback and we pass the ball a lot," Fox said. "We have real good receivers coming back and we're just going to be airing it out."
"We've got a great quarterback, we've got a good running back, and we've got a good o-line this year," Martinez said. "We're going to run it, we're going to pass it, and we're going to make touchdowns."
The Panthers will be running a new defensive scheme this year to help improve a unit that gave up over 39 points per game last season.
"We've got a new defense," Martinez said. "We just need to be a lot more aggressive and we need to pay more attention."
"We're trying to make our defense faster," said Coach Farmer. "You look at Haskell, you look at some of the other guys in our district, you look at Munday, they've got some guys that can run, so we need to make our defense as fast as we can."
With great leadership and hard work, the Panthers expect this season will definitely be better than last year.
"Just get back to how Seymour was before," Fox said of his goals. "Step up. We were used to, in Seymour, a lot of guys never really worked hard and we got by with a lot of athleticism. That's not really the case anymore. We have to work, and that's kind of what we are bringing to the table now."