Buena Regional High School football is looking to build off last season.
A year removed from a dismal 2011 season where it went 2-8, Buena finished 2012 at 4-6. The Chiefs look to reach .500 this season for the first time since going 7-4 in 2008.
"It comes down to a couple games," said Jon Caputo, who is in his third year as head coach. "I think we can be in the hunt like we were last year.
"We need to have a lot of improvements to happen quickly but we're going after competing in the Group II playoffs and winning (the Cape-Atlantic League National Conference). Those are our goals every year."
It's going to be an uphill battle for the Chiefs, who share the CAL National with five other Group II schools as well as two Group IV schools and a Group V.
They also play Group V Atlantic City in a crossover game.
"It's tough. We play really in the only conference in the state of New Jersey where Group IIs play Group Vs," Caputo said.
"We play two Group Vs and two Group IVs in our first eight games before the cut. Half of our games are against teams that are bigger than us, and we have to find a way to win one of those and win all of the Group II games.
"So playing in the Cape as Group II isn't the easiest, but it doesn't change our goals. We believe we can deal."
Buena will have a third-year quarterback in senior Eric Rainear. Rainear took over halfway through his sophomore season and was the starter last season.
"Having the quarterback back is huge," Caputo said. "I don't remember the last time I had a quarterback with that much game experience. He's a good decision-maker."
Along with Rainear, the Chiefs' offense returns starting wide receiver Mike Julia, a senior who has also seen significant playing time since his sophomore season.
Two young running backs will look to make an impact this season in sophomores Georgie Dibiase and Quadir Albright.
"We have a lot of skill guys who we're going to try and spread the ball around to and take what the opposing defense gives us," Caputo said.
The offense will be the focal point of the Chiefs this year, Caputo said. His defense is also returning some key players, but the newcomers will have to step up for there to be success, Caputo said.
As for expectations, cohesiveness is going to be the main factor.
"It all comes down to how quickly we can come together," Caputo said.
Contact John Russo:
Coach: Jon Caputo (6-14, 2 seasons)
League/Group: Cape-Atlantic League National Conference/South Jersey Group II
Last season's record: 4-6
Playoff appearances: 13
Playoff record: 6-12
2013 prediction: Rebuilding - Playing against four Group IV/V teams will test the Chiefs.
Game to watch: Sept. 13 vs. Vineland - Coach Jon Caputo said he wants to get a good start to the season against Vineland.
Key returnees: Eric Rainear, Sr., QB/DB, 5-8, 160; Erik Anderson, Sr., OL/DL, 5-11, 200; Billy Dayton, Sr., OL/DL, 6-0, 200; Neil Nelson, Jr., TE/LB, 6-2, 210; Michael Julia, Sr., WR/DB, 6-0, 180; Quadir Albright, So., 5-6, 155; David Bond, Sr., WR/DB, 6-0, 175; George Dibiase, Jr., RB/LB, 5-8, 155.
Top newcomers: Sammy Crouch, So., RB/DE, 6-2, 200; Nick Caporale, Sr., OL/DL, 5-10, 225; Justin Inman, So., RB/DB, 5-4, 130; Tyler Dralle, Jr., WR/DB, 6-0, 175; Shaquille Scott, So., RB/DE, 6-1, 200; Ian Fike, Sr., OL/DE, 6-2, 200.