The Lower Cape May Regional High School football team finished 7-3 and made the playoffs for its first winning season since 2006.
Usually, a long rebuilding process follows such seasons of success. Not this year.
The Caper Tigers return several standouts and have the talent to duplicate last season's achievements.
"We have some momentum, but we still have a couple of shoes to fill," coach Mike Wilson said. "But we definitely need another winning season, anything less would be disheartening. We're dynamic and can do a lot on offense, but I think the key is going to be our defense."
Senior quarterback Mike Mulligan is a two-year starter. He threw for 999 yards and 13 touchdowns and also excelled at defensive back.
"He's probably got the most pressure on him because of his abilities," Wilson said. "He can run. He can throw. He's one of our hardest hitters. He has a lot of expectations, but he likes that."
Mulligan's main receiver should be 6-foot-4 Vance Matthews, who emerged as one of the Cape-Atlantic League's best with 19 catches for 426 yards and eight touchdowns last year. Several Football Championship Subdivision (formerly Division I-AA) colleges are recruiting him.
"He's gotten bigger, faster and stronger," Wilson said.
Jordan Hazel, a 6-5 junior, also supplies size at wide receiver.
Running backs Jimmy Hall and Frankie Ziegler lead the ground game. Hall averaged 5.5 yards per carry, while Ziegler averaged 7.2 yards per rush last season.
"I think they're going to be a nice one-two punch and complement the pass game," Wilson said of Hall and Ziegler.
Evan Hagen, a 6-2, 312-pound senior, leads the offensive and defensive lines. He was a CAL United Division All-Star last season.
Wilson said the fans treat the Caper Tigers differently after last year's success. One thing the Caper Tigers must handle is high expectations.
"I'm teaching the kids how to deal with that," Wilson said. "Usually, it's the other way around. It's a different vibe around town."
Wilson doesn't want his players to be content with last season.
"I stress that every second on the practice field counts, every second in the weight room counts and every second (watching) films counts," Wilson said. "They look at me like I'm crazy sometimes, but sometimes they get it."
Contact Michael McGarry:
PLAYOFF APPEARANCES: 3
PLAYOFF RECORD: 0-3
LAST PLAYOFF APPEARANCE: 2010
LEAGUE/GROUP: Cape-Atlantic League United/South Jersey Group II
COACH: Mike Wilson (8-32, four seasons)
2010 RECORD: 7-3
2011 PREDICTION: Spoiler - The Caper Tigers graduated some standouts but returning veterans like quarterback Mike Mulligan give them a chance to repeat last season's success.
GAME TO WATCH: Oct. 22 vs. Millville - after five road games to start the season the Caper Tigers host a talented Millville team that made the South Jersey Group IV playoffs last season.