The Wildwood football team's biggest challenge this season will be approaching the success of last season.
A year removed from a 6-4 season and the Warriors first playoff appearance in school history, Wildwood is battling the rigors of being a small Group I school, as well as replacing one of South Jersey's best running backs.
Last season, senior Wesley Hills rushed for 2,077 yards. Wildwood head coach Rich Hans is attempting to replace that production with junior David Flanders and sophomore Abdiel Richards.
But Hans said it's going to be impossible to replace a player like Hills, The Press Athlete of the Fall who's now at the University of Delaware.
"We'll do a two-back backfield and rotate the two backs," Hans said. "They'll rotate between tailback and fullback."
Wildwood's other challenge this season, and possibly the biggest, will be having enough players to field a team.
Wildwood did some heavy recruiting this offseason to make sure a football season happened this year.
"As a coach, we're going to be starting from the bottom and start with the fundamentals," Hans said. "We're starting them with the fundamentals seven or eight days before our first game. As a coach, it's tough obviously, and as a player there isn't a whole lot of time to get it in."
Teaching fundamentals in football has always been a challenge. It's a complex sport, Hans said.
The challenges aside, Hans said the kids he has are working to absorb as much information as possible and learn the game.
"They're doing the best they can. They're hustling and working hard," Hans said. "There's a lot of technique. I'm getting kids that are starting in ninth grade and 10th grade and 11th grade. So it's hard. It's going to be an uphill battle for sure."
Wildwood returns two first-team Tri-County players on defense in junior defensive lineman Mikal Poteat and senior middle linebacker Jose Valentin.
Poteat created nightmares for offensive linemen last season, Hans said.
"(He) is probably our best all-around player," Hans said. "He creates tough matchups on the line. You basically have to double-team him."
Junior Tyler Gentek will be the starting quarterback.
"This is going to be his first full season as a quarterback," Hans said. "He stepped up for Devon Bradshaw last year. He's one of our captains with Mikal."
The other key returning player on an otherwise very young team is senior lineman Rayquan Walker.
Contact John Russo:
Coach: Rich Hans (10-28, 4 seasons)
League/Group: West Jersey Football League Classic Division/South Jersey Group I
Last season's record: 6-4
Playoff appearances: 1
Playoff record: 0-1
2013 prediction: Rebuilding - Wildwood is going to struggle to match last season's success.
Game to watch: Oct. 12 at Salem - The Rams match up the best against a young Wildwood team.
Key players: Mikal Poteat, Jr., OL/DL, 6-2, 270; Jose Valentin, Sr., FB/OL/MLB, 6-0, 195; Tyler Gentek, Jr., QB/DB, 5-11, 175; Rayquan Walker, Sr., OL/DL, 6-0, 270; David Flanders, Jr., RB/LB, 5-11, 165; Abdiel Richards, So., RB/DB, 5-11, 165.