The Absegami Braves had high expectations last season and were considered contenders for a Cape-Atlantic League American Conference title.
But inexperience and injuries derailed the Braves' plan.
However, the Braves are back this year with a good core group of young players despite losing 13 seniors from last year's team.
"We had those high expectations and I think a lot of people, including myself, failed to realize the obstacles and the on-field experience that those kids would be lacking going into the year," Absegami coach Dennis Scuderi Jr. said. "I don't think we have that as much this year."
Absegami has eight juniors who saw significant time last year, including quarterback Rashad Kinlaw, who was a Press honorable mention All-Star last season.
Kinlaw had a breakout season as a sophomore and became one of the Braves' best offensive players.
In 10 games, Absegami finished 4-6 last year, losing its last two games to top-seeded Cherokee in the South Jersey Group IV quarterfinals and to Oakcrest on Thanksgiving.
"It was real good for me. It was a good experience. I got used to the pressure of everything," Kinlaw said. "I don't really take it as a lot of pressure. I just take it down by down and hope to make good plays."
Kinlaw's speed at quarterback will be a threat to teams. But Absegami does have other options at the skill positions.
Junior Tyler Bing showed plenty of promise, especially toward the end of the season. He can run out of the backfield but was only one of Kinlaw's favorite targets last season.
"This season feels a lot better. I think we are further than we were last year," Bing said. "More people pushing themselves. More young people coming up to push themselves. We are working harder than last year. We look better as a team."
The Braves' schedule gets hard quickly with their first three games against Egg Harbor Township, Holy Spirit and Atlantic City. Those teams had a combined 25-9 record last year.
"Obviously, we had high expectations coming in the last season, but if you look at our schedule and if you look at the teams that we played and the amount of playoff contenders and teams that advanced into the playoffs, you know, that had something to do with it," Scuderi said. "So, we played a lot of tough teams.
"We play the same schedule this year."
Contact Susan Lulgjuraj:
Playoff appearances: 6
Last appearance: 2010
Playoff record: 6-5
League/Group: Cape-Atlantic League American/South Jersey Group IV
Coach: Dennis Scuderi Jr. (15-17, three seasons)
2010 record: 4-6
2011 prediction: Contender. Even though the Braves lost many seniors, they have a young core group coming back that will have a big impact in the skill positions.
Game to watch: Sept. 22 at Holy Spirit — The Braves will get an early test against one of the best teams in the state.