The William Monroe football team enters the 2013 season with higher expectations than last year, after bring back all but two of their starters from last year.
The Dragons did suffer one significant loss in the offseason, when senior quarterback Jack Morris had Tommy John surgery.
"He's one of the best athletes in the area, in the top handful, I mean he's that good, " head coach Mark Sanford said of Morris, who was a two-sport star at WMHS and the reigning Bull Run District player of the year in baseball. "Losing someone who would've been a three year starter in that position, that's a tough thing to lose."
As of Monday, Sanford said there is still a quarterback competition going on, but there aren't many other positions that need to be filled. With the exceptions of Jack Morris and wide receiver Dakwan Morris, William Monroe returns all of their starters from last year. Having so many experienced players back has already paid off during training camp.
"Everyone knows what they're doing from the first day," said Dylan Schaff, a junior linebacker and offensive lineman. "We didn't have to spend a whole bunch of time teaching everyone what their responsibilities are. Everyone mainly knew from the very first day."
Schaff says it's entirely different from camp last year, when the Dragons had many players who were preparing to play on Friday nights for the first time. That young group finished the season with a 1-9 record.
"They were in trial by fire last year, and it was a tough year," says Sanford.
The phase of the game where WMHS struggled the most was on defense, giving up an average of 55.4 points per game. In the offseason, the coaches emphasized tackling and forcing turnovers, and that focus has continued in camp.
"A lot more than offense," sophomore fullback and linebacker Malik Mallory says of the time spent on defense. "That's what we need to work on, tackling, and just the whole overall defense, and we'll be good."
"Last year we were a wet paper sack, as far as our defense went," adds Sanford. "That was obviously one of our big offseason goals, was to focus on that side of the football both in scheme and personnel."
With much more experience and a renewed focus on defense, the Dragons enter this fall with higher expectations, ready to erase the memories of last season.
"No one wants to go through that again, it makes for a real long season, and it's not fun at all," said Mallory.
"Last year, people didn't expect much because we have a very young bunch that were green, had no experience at all," says Sanford. "This year, everybody's got a year of experience so the expectations are going to be higher."