After losing in the first round of the playoffs in 2012, the Madison County football team enters the new season hoping for more. The Mountaineers are hoping their experience at key positions will translate to success in 2013.
MCHS brings back about half their starters from last season's playoff team, including junior quarterback James Graves and an experienced group of wide receivers.
"Ashton Weakley is a returner, Sam Taylor is a returner, Joe Gentry is a returner," says head coach Stuart Dean. "Those are all the receiving core, and they probably bring our biggest base of returners to help us out."
Throwing to all those experienced receivers is Graves, who started last year for Madison.
"It's great to have him back because he knows all the plays, he knows what he needs to do," said senior wide receiver and safety Collin Shifflett. "He knows where to throw the ball, what time. He's got his timing down, so he's doing great."
"He had to learn on the go last year when Dustin Former got hurt in the week before the first game," adds Dean. "It's really good for him to get a whole preseason of getting all the reps, and then it's nice for the receivers to get used to one quarterback throwing to them the whole time."
The Mountaineers finished 5-7 last year, and lost in the first round of the playoffs. Now that they've had a taste of the postseason, this year's team is hungry for more.
"Me and some of the other seniors goals are to win a playoff game, so we're going to pick up the intensity and work harder in practice," said senior running back Immanuel Gentry.
"We're coming back fresh, we got that taste of playoffs last year, and we're really motivated," added Shifflett. "Our team is very strong this year."
Dean says he won't know just how strong they are, until they get the chance to play against another squad. The Mountaineers open the season on Sept. 6 at Luray.
"I'm looking forward to it, but I think the guys behind me are looking forward to it even more," Dean says of the season opener. "They're getting tired of hitting on each other, it's time to go hit on somebody else."
Senior tight end Sam Taylor echoed that sentiment. "I'm very excited, just ready to hit somebody else that's not from our team," he said.