Here's a scary thought for opposing defenses in the Jefferson District -- Monticello High School football coach Jeff Woody expects the Mustangs to play even faster this season.
"They know what's up now, and they know what to expect," Woody, entering his second season as coach of the Mustangs, said of his players. "They know the fast-paced offense. They know the aggressive defense that we like to play."
Monticello went 9-1 during the regular season in Woody's first year as coach -- averaging 42.8 points-per game, and scoring 40-plus points in seven of those 10 games.
And thanks to that year of experience in Woody's no-huddle offense, the Mustangs say they were able to pick up this summer, where they left off last year.
"I think a lot of people came back knowing the plays from last year," said senior Griffin Davis. "So I'm pretty sure everyone's upped the pace now. We're getting fast, a lot faster than last year."
"Toward the beginning of our season last year, we were still thinking about the mental aspect," said senior Jonathan Heuchert. "And having the mental aspect down, it'll be all about physical, and man-on-man, and we'll be able to just go out there and compete."
Senior running back Kyree Koonce is back for the Mustangs this summer, after a broken leg ended his junior season last October. Koonce put up 677 rushing yards, 152 receiving yards, and 13 total touchdowns in five games before getting hurt.
Koonce and junior Darian Bates (493 rushing yards and four touchdowns last year) are just two of the options in the team's talented stable of Mustangs in the backfield entering this season.
"I like the hand that we've been dealt," Woody said. "But I'm all about matchups in this league. Folks have speed; folks have athletes. And we've got to out-work them."
The Mustangs also enter this season with motivation. Both of the team's losses last year came in the closing minutes -- with a missed extra point the difference in a 21-20 loss to Albemarle during the regular season, and a late interception squashing Monticello's postseason comeback bid in a 33-27 loss to eventual Division 3A state champion Northside.
"Just a subtle reminder, here and there," Woody said. "Just mention the Northside game. Just mention the Albemarle game. Just mention those little mishaps, and you could see the pace pick up."
"Ever since last fall, we were a couple plays away in the Northside game, getting sent home," said Heuchert. "And it's just been fuel to our fire, and we're really working hard. Trying to make it so we get over the hump."
"It's always in the back of your mind," said Koonce. "Because you know if you're not pushing hard, or working hard, there's somebody else or another team out here working just as hard as us, and doing the extra things."