After the Cumberland Regional High School football team lost to Kingsway Regional 22-3 last season, the Colts spent 45 minutes in the parking lot talking about the lack of focus that cost them the game.
Cumberland didn't lose again the rest of the 2010. The Colts carry a five-game winning streak into this season. But despite the winning streak, a slow start - three losses in the first five games - cost the Colts a playoff spot last year.
"You can take a handful of plays," Cumberland coach Tom Lake said, "and that 2-3 start could have jumped to 5-0, 4-1, or 3-2. Then we're in the playoffs and we're a high seed."
The main goal for 2011 is to avoid another slow start.
"We're focused on getting started better," Lake said. "We didn't take care of enough of our business early on."
So far in 2011, Lake likes what he sees.
"The guys have really applied themselves," he said. "They're a lot more focused this year than we were at the outset last year."
Lake said the Colts would feature several versatile players.
"We're physically strong," Lake said. "The guys have done a great job in the weight room. We're not super big. But we're strong, versatile and athletic."
Cumberland returns veterans at key positions.
Junior quarterback Steve Garron has started since he was a freshman.
Garron completed 55 percent of his passes and threw five touchdowns in 2010. Garron did not play baseball last spring to prepare for the upcoming football season.
"He's come back bigger and stronger," Lake said. "He has a real command of the offense. His leadership has grown. He's building off last year."
The Colts also will rely on veterans Gabe Hemighaus (tight end and defensive end) and Jacob Paul (offensive and defensive lines).
On defense, ends Marcus Scott (35 tackles) and Jordan Pierce (50 tackles, 2.5 sacks) return.
Anthony Graziano shifts from noseguard back to his original position of middle linebacker.
Lake said the Colts have to stay healthy and heed the lessons they learned last year to be successful this season.
"I think we can compete with any team on our schedule every week," he said. "But you have to prepare to win every week. It's about focus, knowing your assignments and not letting little distractions take you from a practice."
Contact Michael McGarry:
PLAYOFF APPEARANCES: 2
LAST PLAYOFF APPEARANCE: 2008
PLAYOFF RECORD: 0-2
LEAGUE/GROUP: West Jersey Football League Royal Division/South Jersey Group III
COACH: Tom Lake (23-27, five seasons)
2010 RECORD: 7-3
2011 PREDICTION: Spoiler - Colts take a five-game winning streak into the season.
GAME TO WATCH: Sept. 23 at Delsea Regional - Lake calls Delsea the gold standard. Delsea reached the South Jersey Group III final last season and again will be one off the region's top teams. Delsea edged Cumberland 8-7 last year.