The Brookhaven High School football team has a set of established team rules regarding attendance, work ethic and attitude instilled by third-year coach Trevor White and a veteran coaching staff.
White jokes that he added a new "rule" this year that is actually a reflection of the Bearcats' roster: Don't get injured.
With lower overall numbers than in some past years and little depth at most positions, Brookhaven's success could depend on how much of an impact a small group of talented two-way players can provide.
Brookhaven -- which has gone 14-7 in two seasons under White, including 7-3 a year ago when it settled for 10th in Division II, Region 7 -- opens Friday, Aug. 30, at Columbus West.
"Our starters are solid. We just can't get hurt," White said. "We've got good guys at each position but we're just paper thin. We graduated 24 seniors and we've got a good-sized senior class again, but we're going to go as a few of those guys go."
The Bearcats are relying on seniors like Bruce Foster (6-foot-1, 185 pounds) and Paul Hughes (5-11, 205) to take on a leadership role.
Hughes is a returning starter at linebacker and tight end.
Foster has started since his freshman season at linebacker and is taking over at quarterback for 2013 graduate Kevin Greenhow, who completed 57 of 149 passes for 1,056 yards with 16 touchdowns and five interceptions and rushed 153 times for 712 yards and 13 scores.
Sophomore Macyah Fleming (6-3, 190) is the backup quarterback.
Junior David Peoples was thrust into a key role at running back last season after 2013 graduate Blake McEwen went down with an injury that kept him out for most of the season.
Peoples finished with 415 yards on 67 carries and two touchdowns and again should be at running back, along with seniors Davonte Lewis and Devon Grant and junior Anton Payne.
Lewis also will see time at H-back and wide receiver. Senior Keandre Powell and junior Asan Crego are others at wide receiver.
Seniors Khaleal Weeks (5-8, 230), Ne'Tronne Backus (5-10, 230) and John Finch (5-10, 250) and juniors Stefen Banks (6-4, 285) and Steve Pelletier (6-0, 235) are expected to be on the offensive line.
Fleming will be the kicker.
"We've been doing all right, but we can pick it up a lot more," Hughes said. "Barely missing (the playoffs) is still missing it. We've got a lot of fire still burning in us this year."
Brookhaven went 6-1 in the City-North to finish second behind Beechcroft (7-0), which defeated the Bearcats 20-0 in week nine a year ago.
Beechcroft was the only City-North opponent to score more than two touchdowns on a Brookhaven defense that again should be a strength.
Hughes could work at any of the linebacker spots. Junior Takeyvion Simmons (5-10, 175), Lewis, Crego, Payne and senior Terry Barker are others at the position.
Seniors Justin Baker (5-11, 230) and Josh Glaze (6-3, 195) are expected to be on the defensive line along with Weeks, Ne'Tronne Backus, Finch, Banks and Pelletier.
Powell will be in the secondary along with Grant and juniors Giovaughnni Bonner and Colby Ketchens.
The Bearcats could look different scheme-wise on defense than they have in several years after long-time assistant Steve Ayers left to join the coaching staff at Walnut Ridge.
Wes Edwards, a 2008 Brookhaven graduate who played defensive back, is the new defensive coordinator.
Brookhaven made it to the Region 7 playoffs during White's first season before coming up short of the postseason for just the fourth time since 2000 last fall.
The Bearcats -- like City-North foes Beechcroft, Centennial and Mifflin -- all have moved into Division III, Region 9 after the OHSAA's expansion to seven divisions.
Brookhaven's opener against West will mark the first matchup between the programs since 2002 when the Bearcats won 17-0 in a matchup of City-Red Division opponents.
Also new to the schedule is Central Crossing, which will travel to Brookhaven on Sept. 13.
The Bearcats play Sept. 6 at Marion-Franklin, a team it has lost to each of the past three seasons.
"Last year we lost a couple of heartbreakers," White said. "These guys don't want that to happen again. That's their motivation for this year. Everybody's got some rebuilding to do this year (in the City-North). I don't think there are any heavy favorites."