Big Walnut High School football coach Joe Weaver doesn't think this year's team needs to look to the past to find motivation for the present.
Last season, the Golden Eagles went 6-4 and missed the playoffs for the first time since 2009, finishing 16th in Division II, Region 7 as the top eight teams qualified for the postseason.
"Obviously, your past experiences are going to build toward your future effort," said Weaver, whose team opens Friday, Aug. 30, at Mansfield Senior. "But what's unique with this group is they don't let what happened describe their direction. They don't spend a whole lot of time talking about the past. What matters is what's on the field now."
Weaver has been impressed by the effort put forth by his players this preseason.
"Their work ethic is incredible," he said. "The guys show up every day and bust their tails. They're excited about the season and they know if they want to do something special that they have to work."
Weaver expects his team to receive major contributions from the 18 seniors on the roster, including Grant Burks (RB/LB), Austin Carr (RB/LB), Austin Crow (TE/LB), Logan Crum (RB/LB), Braden Dronsfield (K), Alec Eisnnicher (RB/LB), Austin Hale (OL/DL), David Hernandez (OL/DL), Trey Huffer (OL/DL), Chase LaVeer (WR/DB), Logan Perry (WR/DB), Austin Thomas (DB), Chris Thomas (WR/LB), Sean Williams (OL/DL) and Joel Windle (RB/DB).
"The team runs through (the seniors)," Weaver said. "As they go, we go. I expect them to model the way. How they do their business is the same way the sophomores and juniors do their business. They understand that pressure is on them."
"I've grown up with these guys," Hale said of his classmates. "It's the last year we're going to be together. It's going to be a lot of fun to go out there and see what we can do together."
Among the 10 starters from a year ago who were lost to graduation was quarterback Carson Chatterton, who was 78-for-146 passing for 971 yards, eight touchdowns and nine interceptions and carried 93 times for 322 yards and four touchdowns and was named second team all-OCC-Capital.
Junior Jordan Wall served as Chatterton's backup a year ago and is competing with sophomores Michael Sensi and Hayden Bowmar for the starting job under center.
Last season, Wall was 5-for-8 passing for 79 yards and an interception.
Junior running back Christian Johnson returns to lead the backfield. Last year, he was the team's leading rusher with 638 yards and four touchdowns on 116 carries and was named honorable mention all-league.
The Golden Eagles lost their top three wide receivers from a year ago to graduation in Seth Myers (24 catches for 273 yards), Adam Shaheen (24 catches for 222 yards, team-high 5 touchdowns) and Gabe Kitchen (19 catches for 260 yards).
LaVeer is expected to lead the receiving corps this season, according to Weaver, and Crow will see time at tight end. Hale, Hernandez and Huffer bring experience to the offensive line.
Hale was special mention all-league last season.
On defense, Williams returns on the line, Crow and Eisnnicher return to lead the corps of linebackers and Windle is back to lead the secondary.
Crow and Eisnnicher led the defense last season, with Crow recording 102 tackles (35 solo), seven tackles for loss and two sacks and Eisnnicher finishing with 96 tackles (27 solo), 12 tackles for loss and three sacks.
Crow was first-team all-league and Eisnnicher was second-team all-league.
Big Walnut, which went 4-3 in the OCC-Capital last year to tie Olentangy Orange for third, has returned to Division III after being in Division II the past four seasons. It won the Division III state championship in 2007 and was a state semifinalist in that division the following season before moving up to Division II in 2009.
"Our goal is to take every game as it comes," Weaver said. "So our goal right now is to win game one. Once that's done, we'll move on to game two."