Coach Frank Hepler's West Forsyth Wolverines are looking to build on last year's success.
In their first year playing with the big boys in Class AAAAA, the Wolverines surprised everyone by making it into the state playoffs. After a season like that, they won't be sneaking up on anyone in 2010. But, then, they may not have to.
With a seasoned quarterback like A.J. Erdely, an 1,100-yard rusher like Blake Roberts and the entire, battle-tested offensive line returning, the Wolverines no longer need the element of surprise.
After a very productive off season, Hepler says he feels good about West's chances of a return trip to the playoffs. He was particularly pleased with Erdely's progress.
"He's really taken to the coaching a lot better and isn't letting the little things bother him like he did last year," Hepler said.
Finding improvement on the defensive side gets a little tougher.
You don't replace All-Region and All-County standouts like defensive lineman Jake Tatum, defensive back Robert Lewis and linebacker Dustin Gayton without going through some growing pains.
But having veterans like three-year starter Trevor Guthrie, who returns at safety, and two-year starter Wes Rood, who returns at linebacker, will at least give the Wolverines a solid foundation on which to build. West can also count on another returning linebacker Mohammed Camara and defensive end Drew Robbins to make life difficult for opposing offenses.
Hepler is also looking for Joey Brooks, a transfer student from Johnson High School in Gainesville, to make a big impact on the Wolverines defense.
Hepler says he views his team as a young bunch still trying to learn the ropes entering a second season in Class AAAAA.
If the veterans can stay healthy during a grueling season in a very difficult region and some of the new faces are as productive as Hepler expects them to be, this could be a season in which West advances even deeper into the state playoffs.