At first glance, it seems Absegami had a so-so season last year.
The Braves finished 5-5.
But four of the losses were to playoff teams. Two defeats were to South Jersey champions.
Absegami also lost several players to injury and was forced to play inexperienced youngsters.
"We don't use injuries as an excuse, but it wasn't a bad year," Absegami coach Dennis Scuderi Jr. said.
Those youngsters are now a year older, a year stronger and a year better.
The Braves should contend for the Cape-Atlantic League American Conference title and a South Jersey Group IV playoff spot.
"We have a lot of (players) coming back," linebacker Bobby Reilly said. "We can't give away much. But we're looking good. We have to make sure we fly around to the ball and be where we're supposed to be. We'll be fine."
Absegami will rely on a strong ground game with running backs Ben Martin and David Hood. John Harvey, who saw time at running back last season, moves to wide receiver.
Martin rushed for 758 yards in nine games last season. He runs the 40-yard dash in 4.49 seconds and at 192 pounds is 20 pounds heavier than he was last season.
Dylan Ross steps in at quarterback. He has to throw well enough to keep defenses from concentrating solely on stopping the run.
"We're going to have to have strong play out of that position to be where we want to be," Scuderi said.
Reilly and fellow returning linebackers Tom Macauley and Robert Prince form the core of the defense. The Braves also have strong senior leadership thanks to center Mike Barber and Reilly.
"Bob Reilly is one of the best people I've been around in football," Scuderi said. "He's dedicated to the school, the team and his family."
After the injury adversity of last season, things couldn't have gone much better for the Braves mentally and physically this preseason.
"This is the most fun I've had coaching," Scuderi said.
PLAYOFF APPEARANCES: 5
LAST APPEARANCE: 2006
PLAYOFF RECORD: 6-4
LEAGUE/GROUP: Cape-Atlantic League American Conference/South Jersey Group IV
COACH: Dennis Scuderi Jr. (5-5, one season)
2008 RECORD: 5-5
2009 PREDICTION: Contender.
Braves return an experienced group of quick, talented athletes. Absegami has the depth to be a two-platoon team.
THE GROUND GAME:
Ben Martin runs the 40-yard dash in 4.49 seconds and averaged nearly six yards per carry last season.
Ben Martin, Jr., RB, 5-10, 192;
John Harvey, Sr., WR/DB, 5-8, 170;
David Hood, Sr., RB, 5-10, 190;
Rupert Mills, Sr., WR/DB, 5-9, 175;
Mailon Demby, Sr., WR, 6-2, 175;
Dylan Ross, Sr., QB, 6-3, 175;
Steve Schwartz, Jr., OL, 6-5, 260;
Andrew McKee, Sr., OL, 5-9, 225; Mike Barber, Sr., C, 5-11, 225;
Mike Ottaviano, So., OL, 6-3, 255;
Tom Huntzinger, Sr., OL, 5-11, 210;
Steve Pynn, Sr., TE, 5-11, 190;
Ian Capella, Sr., DL, 5-11, 210;
Craig Johnson, Jr., DL, 6-1, 250;
Dan Northridge, Jr., DL, 5-11, 195;
Jon Fishman, Jr., DL, 5-11, 195;
Bob Reilly, Sr., LB, 5-9, 180;
Rob Prince, Sr. LB, 5-10, 195;
Tom Macauley, Jr., LB, 5-10, 200;
Rasheed Grandy, Sr., DB, 5-8, 160;
Kyle Wiggings, So., DB, 5-10, 185;
Matt McGinnis, Sr., DB, 5-10, 170;
Kevin Stadtmueller, Sr., DL, 5-11, 190
Absegami's 2009 football schedule
Sept. 11: Hammonton 7 p.m.
Sept. 18: Vineland 7 p.m.
Sept. 25: at Millville 7 p.m.
Oct. 2: at Egg Harbor Township 7 p.m.
Oct. 9: at Delsea 7 p.m.
Oct. 23: Atlantic City 7 p.m.
Oct. 30: at Ocean City 7 p.m.
Nov. 6: at Mainland Regional 7 p.m.
Nov. 26: Oakcrest 10 a.m.