The Lower Cape May Regional High School football team begins a season with optimism for the first time in four years.
The Caper Tigers have won just one game the past three seasons. Lower hasn't had a winning season since it finished 7-3 in 2006.
But better days appear to be ahead. The Caper Tigers return numerous veterans, and that means Lower should be better prepared for games.
"We're very experienced compared to the last two years," Lower coach Mike Wilson said. "The first day of camp our whole offense was basically in. We got a lot done the first week."
Even better is the team's mental approach, according to Wilson, who is in his fourth season.
"The attitude is the best it has ever been since I was a player and an assistant," he said.
Lower snapped a 28-game losing streak with a 34-20 win over Lakewood in a consolation game last Nov. 14.
"That meant a lot," Wilson said, "but these kids aren't satisfied with that. I think they realize they're better than just one win last year. There are games we lost that I think we should have won."
Quarterback Mike Mulligan threw for nine touchdowns and 908 yards last season.
"Mike's improved his speed," Wilson said. "He's bigger. He's stronger. He's always had an arm."
Chris Alicea emerged as a standout running back and wide receiver last season.
He rushed for 269 yards and caught 27 passes for 396 yards.
"He's played quarterback, receiver, running back," Wilson said. "Each week we plan on using him where we need him most. It gives teams another thing to think about - ‘Where's Chris at? Where's he lined up?' "
Josh Newkirk leads the offensive and defensive lines.
After the past three seasons, however, Wilson knows the Caper Tigers must show their improvement on the field.
"We have some players," he said. "But we haven't proved anything to anybody."
PLAYOFF APPEARANCES: 2
LAST APPEARANCE: 2006
PLAYOFF RECORD: 0-2
LEAGUE/GROUP: Cape-Atlantic League United/South Jersey Group II
COACH: Mike Wilson (1-29, three seasons)
2009 RECORD: 1-9
2010 PREDICTION: Rebuilding. Chris Alicea and Mike Mulligan lead Lower’s most talented team since 2006.
GAME TO WATCH:
Oct. 8 vs. Bridgeton.
Caper Tigers will test themselves against an always-strong Bridgeton.
Mike Plummer, Jr., OL/DE, 6-0, 210; Nick Nuscis, OL/DT, 6-2, 275; Josh Newkirk, Sr., OL/DE, 6-1, 250; Evan Hagan, Jr., OL/DT, 6-2, 230; Jimmy Hall, Jr., RB/LB, 5-9, 165; Chris Alicea, Sr., RB/CB, 6-0, 170; Tyler Sole, RB/S; Gary Kocher, Sr., WR/S, 5-9, 145; Vance Matthews, Jr., WR/CB, 6-4, 180; Jordan Hazel, So., WR/S, 6-5, 185; Mike Mulligan, Jr., QB/S, 5-10, 200; Eric Fletcher, Sr., QB/S/LB, 6-0, 170; Jason Hoban, Jr., OL/DE, 5-10, 185; Jonathon Matagiese, OL/DL, 5-9, 240.
Jason Kneis, OL/LB/DE, 6-2, 215; Frankie Zeigler, RB/WR/LB, 6-0, 175.