In preseason workouts a year ago, no one knew exactly what to expect from the Dublin Coffman High School football team.
The Shamrocks had lost virtually their entire starting lineup on both sides of the ball from 2007, and players with no varsity experience were being thrust into the starting roles. Coffman played well, going 7-3 overall, but missed the playoffs for the first time since 2005.
This fall, the Shamrocks have experience across the board, which means players know what's expected out of them every day at practice. They also know what they expect out of themselves.
"We have to make the playoffs," running back Shaun Jones and offensive lineman Sam Schulte said almost in unison when asked about goals.
"And we will," Jones added.
Coach Mark Crabtree said he likes the way the Shamrocks have progressed leading up to the opener, which is Sunday against Olentangy Liberty in Ohio Stadium as part of the Kirk Herbstreit Varsity Football Series.
"We're not teaching football 101 it seems like right now," said Crabtree, whose teams have reached the playoffs in six of his eight seasons. "It seems like we're a little further ahead, just based on experience that we have returning. That part of it is good. I'm not saying we're good with it, but we seem to be a little bit further ahead this year."
Coffman was not far from reaching the Division I, Region 3 playoffs for a third consecutive season last fall. The Shamrocks won seven consecutive games to start the season, but they lost their final three games by a combined 15 points to finish 10th in Region 3.
The teams which beat Coffman -- Hilliard Davidson (14-10), Worthington Kilbourne (30-20) and Upper Arlington (7-6) -- all made the playoffs and finished a combined 30-7.
In the OCC-Central, Coffman finished fourth at 4-3 behind Upper Arlington (7-0), Hilliard Davidson (6-1) and Kilbourne (5-2) and ahead of Hilliard Darby (3-4), Thomas Worthington (2-5), Central Crossing (1-6) and Westland (0-7). Westland and Central Crossing will not compete this season because of the levy failure on Aug. 4 in the South-Western City Schools district, and they have been replaced by Reynoldsburg and Groveport.
The Shamrocks leaned on their defense last season, but the offense now has plenty of experience both at the skill positions and along the line.
Junior quarterback Cole Stoudt is expected to start for a second season after throwing for 1,083 yards and 14 touchdowns last season. He will have most of his receiving corps back, including seniors E.J. Williams, Conner Viers and Joey Phelan. Senior Steve Carpenter, juniors Connor Lucas and Patrick Moreland and sophomore Clayton Vranic also are expected to see time at receiver, and senior Colton Coldwell and Jacob Walter are the tight ends.
With the experience returning at receiver and quarterback, Crabtree said he expects to rely on the pass more than last season, but the Shamrocks should have the ability to run effectively as well.
Jones is in his third year on varsity and ran for 1,122 yards and nine touchdowns last season. He will be running behind a more experienced offensive line, which returns starters Schulte, Jay Howard and Chad Doan, all seniors.
Defensively, Coffman has experience at all positions except the line. In the secondary, Viers returns at corner and junior John Wurm returns as a starter at safety.
Also expected to contribute in the backfield are Moreland, senior Johnny Shar, senior Jimmy Happ, junior David Bassitt, junior Stacy Woodford and sophomore Jerrod Bierbower.
Seniors Brett Buehler and Kyle Frazier will anchor the linebacking corps after starting last year, and senior Tyler Robinson also is expected to be a key contributor.
On the line, where the Shamrocks lost four seniors, several players are expected to see action, including seniors Corey Durthaler, Alex Minardo and Mike Brusadin and juniors Brad Carrico, Max Phelps, Alex Harrell and Blaine Riegle.
Crabtree said the key for this team will be cutting down on mistakes rather than trying to be spectacular.
"People talk about this, that and the other winning games, but when it comes down to it for us, it's just a matter of doing things fundamentally sound," Crabtree said. "I just think if we can do the basic things correctly and very well, I think that's the secret."