When Taylor Wicks joined the Centennial High School football team as a freshman in 2007 after having little previous experience with the sport, he never dreamed he'd end up falling in love with it.

When Taylor Wicks joined the Centennial High School football team as a freshman in 2007 after having little previous experience with the sport, he never dreamed he'd end up falling in love with it.

It's that kind of attitude that he's seen among many of his teammates the last two years, even through what has become one of the darkest periods in the program's history in terms of wins and losses.

After beating Linden-McKinley 31-20 on Oct. 13, 2006, the Stars have suffered back-to-back 0-10 seasons and take a 22-game losing streak into their opener Friday against visiting Hartley.

The season Centennial had a year ago was even worse than its winless 2007 season in terms of margin of defeat.

The Stars scored only 42 points all season, and four of the losses had a margin of defeat greater than that total, including a 96-0 loss to Beechcroft in week eight.

"It's definitely hard to keep the morale and keep our spirits up," Wicks said. "But it comes down to do you truly love the game. I'm a firm believer that if you keep working hard, it can't get any worse."

Pat Sergio, who has coached the Stars to a 48-172 record in 22 seasons, never gets tired of watching his players grow as athletes and students despite the struggles of the program.

"As a coach, you see the progress they make in the course of a season," Sergio said. "You also get to see them graduate and become successful people. Do you like to get the snot knocked out of you every night? No. But it's kind of out of our control. We're put in a situation that's not a very good situation. We're a very strong academic school. These kids are good students and they want to be athletes, and I give a lot of credit to all of my high school players because they give up close to all of their summer."

The Stars, who are one of five City League-North Division schools competing in Division II, Region 7, will have just six seniors.

Anthony Aulette (5-foot-11, 191 pounds) is the only senior among the team's four captains and is in his fourth season with the program. In addition to being the starting fullback, he will be the middle linebacker of a defensive that will alternate between a 3-5-3 and a 3-3-5 look.

Wicks (5-9, 201), who also is a captain along with juniors Di'Andre Harrison (6-3, 204) and Richard Lee (5-9, 195), will be the free safety.

Harrison and Lee will be at defensive end, senior Tyresse Fobbs (5-7, 178) will be at tackle and senior Josiah Steward -- who is the team's largest player at 6-4, 295 -- also will fill a key role on the line.

Juniors Anthony Jackson (5-7, 163) and Raymond Sessley (5-10, 189) should join Aulette at linebacker, with junior Dan Neutzling (5-11, 151) and sophomore Keenen Smith (5-11, 140) at cornerback. Junior Victor Trego (6-0, 152) and junior Wesley Russell (6-1, 168) also will be regulars in the secondary.

"With Taylor and Anthony (Aulette), we should always have somebody back there who can make a tackle and fill the gap," Sergio said.

The Stars experimented with the single-wing in 2007 and a spread offense last year but likely will show a tradition I-formation offense this year, with Russell likely to return at quarterback. Junior Paul Goble (5-8, 160) also could see time at that position.

Wicks and Aulette should be the primary running backs, with Neutzling, Smith and Trego the wide receivers and Harrison at tight end.

Steward and senior John Jones Jr. (5-8, 243) should be the offensive tackles, with Lee, sophomore Angel Leeman (5-9, 193) at guard and senior Justin Mathews (5-8, 255) at center.

Goble is expected to be the kicker and Trego and junior Jerome Lacey (6-0, 171) are battling at punter.

"We're pleased," Sergio said. "We feel we're ahead of where we were last year at this time. We've got quite a few sophomores and juniors and a lot of them last year were starting when they were first-year football players."