Shaquille Lee remembers how it felt for the Millville High School football team to make the playoffs for the first time in a dozen years last season.
He also remembers the Thunderbolts' 32-24 first-round playoff loss to Atlantic City.
Both memories are motivation for this season.
"We want to get back to the same spot and go farther," Lee said. "Everybody gets along perfectly. We're working hard. We want to go out there and win."
Millville returns a host of talented players and should contend for the Cape-Atlantic League American Division title and another South Jersey Group IV playoff berth.
"The kids have bought in," coach Jason Durham said. "They're up-tempo and ready to play."
The current Millville seniors are the first class to be coached their entire high school career by Durham, who took over the program in 2008 after back-to-back 2-8 seasons.
"They know us and we know them," Durham said of the seniors and coaches. "I think we have a better feel of what motivates them, and they have a better feel of our expectations."
Millville features talented veterans at several key positions.
Nick Tyndal, a 6-foot-2, 265-pound senior, has started on the offensive and defensive lines since he was a freshman.
"He knows everything up front," Durham said of Tyndal. "He can let the younger guys and the less experienced guys know what we want from them up front. On the offensive line, communication is such a key."
Tyndal leads one of the biggest offensive lines Millville has had in several seasons. The Thunderbolts also feature 250-pound center Jimmy Cessna and 255-pound guard Chris Whitelam.
Millville also has talent at the skill positions. Lee threw for 1,065 yards and 11 touchdowns last season.
Running back Alquann Jones was one of the quickest players in the CAL with 861 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns.
Lee and Jones will play in the defensive backfield.
Durham said Millville's weakness is a lack of depth.
"We're going to have to stay healthy during the course of the season," Durham said. "But this is the most experienced group we've had, and they are talented. We just going to take it one game at a time. Our division is really tough, so we'll see where it takes us."
Few CAL towns are as passionate about high school football as Millville. The school sells season tickets to games. The Thunderbolts' talent has fans extra pumped for the season.
"I'm getting a lot of reaction around town," Lee said. "People are saying, ‘Do great this year.' The town is into it this year."
Contact Michael McGarry:
PLAYOFF APPEARANCES: 8
LAST PLAYOFF APPEARANCE: 2010
PLAYOFF RECORD: 5-7
LEAGUE/GROUP: Cape-Atlantic League American/South Jersey Group IV
COACH: Jason Durham (12-18, three seasons)
2010 RECORD: 6-4
2011 PREDICTION: Contender - Thunderbolts returned several starters from last season's team, which earned Millville's first playoff appearance in a dozen years.
GAME TO WATCH: Nov. 4 vs. Atlantic City - These teams met twice last season. Millville won 26-6 in the regular season and Atlantic City won 32-24 in the playoffs.