For a coach with Ron Hinton's resume, expectations focus on league championships and playoff berths. Anything less is usually considered a letdown.

For a coach with Ron Hinton's resume, expectations focus on league championships and playoff berths. Anything less is usually considered a letdown.

Last season, Hinton went through a rare down season as the Amanda-Clearcreek High School football team finished 3-7 overall, posting only its second losing record in 26 seasons.

"It wasn't a wake-up call," said Hinton, whose teams have won two state championships. "It was more of a slap in the face.

"We just hit the bottom of the barrel last year. For us to go 3-7 was just, 'Wow.'"

Now Hinton and his Aces are looking to shake move back into one of the top spots of the MSL-Buckeye Division. As a young team last year, the Aces went 2-5 in the MSL to finish sixth behind champion Logan Elm (7-0).

With another year of experience, Amanda-Clearcreek expects to again compete with the league's elite.

"In the past, we had a very young football team," Hinton said. "Now we can't say that. We're pretty much a veteran squad."

The leaders of that group include returning senior starters on both sides of the ball, led by running back Garren Dilley and linebacker Tyler Genders.

In his second year as a featured back, Dilley (5-foot-9, 215 pounds) demonstrated the ability to carry the offense and was first-team all-district in Division IV. With Dilley returning, Hinton decided to go back to the traditional power running offense that the Aces had strayed from in recent years for a more pass-oriented attack.

"We're going to ditch that and go back to the kind of football I know and the kids know," Hinton said. "The old style of football."

"(Dilley) is one of the reasons why we're doing that. He's going to get the tough yards."

Also bolstering the running attack will be the return of senior fullback Brock Rose (5-11, 229), who missed most of last season because of an ankle injury. He started early in the year, but his production was limited after an injury in the second game.

His presence in the backfield gives the Aces another power runner, and someone to clear holes for Dilley.

"He's a tank," Dilley said. "You can't bring him down."

The Aces also return junior quarterback Jarrod Bennett (5-11, 182). With a year of starting experience, the coaches expect him to run the offense more efficiently.

"He doesn't have to win the game, but he has to do a heck of a job orchestrating it," Hinton said.

Defensively, the Aces are adapting a new approach. Seven starters return, but most of them will be in different spots.

"We're going to put the best 11 on the field, and then we're going to sort out the position they will be," Hinton said. "We'll move people around so that we have our best athletes on the field."

Genders (6-4, 220) will lead the defense, and Rose and Cody Sharp (5-8, 200) will join him at linebacker. Max Corcoran and Jarred Wilson will anchor the secondary.

When the Aces take the field, Dilley said they will be motivated by the frustration they felt last season.

"That's what's been driving us," Dilley said. "We still hear what people are talking about, that Amanda-Clearcreek is falling off, or the program is dying, and we don't like that at all. We heard that all last year that it's the black days of Amanda-Clearcreek, and that makes us work harder."