The Oakcrest High School football team finished 1-9 last season, Still, Falcons coach Chuck Smith had a great time.
"You could have walked out (to practice) any day of the week and you would have though we were 9-1," Smith said. "The enthusiasm the kids had was tremendous. This is a great group of kids."
Oakcrest is still young. The Falcons roster is predominantly underclassmen with just 12 seniors.
"We're going to have a lot of young guys playing this year," Smith said.
"We have the potential to be a good football team. It's just a matter of making sure we progress at the right level."
Smith said the seniors are excellent role models for the younger players.
Senior lineman Connor Dindak is a three-year starter and like another coach on the field, according to Smith.
"He does things by example out on the field," Smith said of Dindak.
"He's not a yeller or a screamer. He takes the time to make sure the kids understand."
Senior defensive back and wide receiver Brandon Roberson is another three-year starter.
"He's a versatile player," Smith said. "We can put him in at a couple of different spots to take advantage of his athleticism."
Junior Matt Hess leads the offensive line, while junior Mafa'y Wilson is a player to watch at linebacker.
Wilson will replace Brandon Bell, who is now a freshman at Penn State.
Oakcrest will start freshman Kendall Elliott at quarterback.
The 6-foot, 190-pound Elliott has a strong arm and can also run. He could flourish in the Falcons' spread offense.
"He has the football savvy about him," Smith said. "He's picked up the offense real quick. The kids are responding well to him."
Wide receiver Shakur Mozelle should be one of Elliott's top receivers. Sophomore running back Terence Smith started as a freshman at running back. He will get the bulk of the carries this season.
"We're looking for (Terence Smith) to take off this year," Smith said.
The Falcons should improve on last season's win total.
"We'll have a lot of young guys playing this year," Smith said.
"The upside is tremendous. We just have to progress at the right level and try not to rush things. This core group of players will be here for the next three years."
Contact Michael McGarry:
Coach: Chuck Smith (three seasons, 15-17)
League/Group: Cape-Atlantic League American Conference/South Jersey Group III
Last season's record: 1-9
Playoff appearances: 4
Playoff record: 2-4
2013 prediction: Rebuilding – Falcons are still young with only a dozen seniors but should improve on last season's win total.
Key game: Sept. 27 vs. Cedar Creek – The Falcons host the Pirates. Both schools are members of the Greater Egg Harbor School District.
Key players: LaShawn Elliott, So., WR/DB, 6-0, 165; Jerome Reaves, Sr., WR/DB, 6-1, 180; Brandon Roberson, Sr., WR/DB, 6-2, 190; Shakur Mozelle, Jr., RB/DB, 6-0, 175; Prescott Nimley, Jr., DL/TE, 6-2, 220; Reece Tunstall, Jr., RB/LB, 6-1, 190; Terence Smith, So., RB, 5-10, 180; Mafa'y Wilson, Jr., TE/LB, 6-1, 215; Kevin Kleitches, Sr., WR/DB, 5-9, 140; Stefan Fleming, Sr., WR/DB, 5-7, 155; William Fish, So., OL/LB, 5-8, 185; A.J. Davis, So., OL/LB, 5-9, 190; Pasquale Ferrucci, Sr., OL/DL, 5-10, 190; Henry Tran, Sr., OL/LB, 5-9, 195; Ryan Johnson, So., OL/DL, 6-2, 235; Kevin Stokes, Jr., DE, 6-4, 205; Matt Hess, Jr., OL/DL, 6-4, 255; Connor Dindak, Sr., O/DL, 6-2, 270; Mina Barsoum, Jr., OL/DT, 6-3, 245
Top newcomers: Kendall Elliott, Fr., QB, 6-0, 190; Jon Mitchell, Sr., WR/DB, 5-4, 130; Michael Robinson, So., Ol/LB, 5-10, 190; Mark Turner, So., OL/DE, 6-1, 195.