The Central Crossing High School football team expects to see continued improvement both on and off the field.
That optimism begins on offense, where the Comets will use the spread for the second consecutive season after switching from a power-I formation.
The new scheme resulted in a program record for scoring average at 21.4 points per game last season. The previous high was 14.1 in 2010.
"We're really trying to dictate the tempo of the game and we're pretty good at that as far as our speed and tempo," said coach Chris Harr, whose team was 2-8 overall last season.
Harr, who is in his fourth season, also has seen a positive change off the field.
"I've never been more excited since I've been here than this year," he said. "What's even better is just the character of our kids. Their class and their character are just tremendous. It makes going home a lot easier. You're not beating yourself up dealing with off the field issues. The togetherness, the leadership is better. All those little things that go into being a good football team, we are way better than we've ever been, so that is where a lot of the optimism lies."
The Comets open Friday, Aug. 30, at home against Whitehall.
Back is senior quarterback Luke Duncan (6-foot-2, 190 pounds), who was second-team all-OCC-Central Division and honorable mention all-district in Division I last season. He completed 117 of 230 passes for 1,782 yards with 12 touchdowns and 19 interceptions and rushed for 515 yards and seven touchdowns on 175 carries.
"Luke has to be one of the favorites in the area as a quarterback," Harr said. "He would have to be in the top 10 and he can run. That's a big strength of his."
"Last year will definitely give me a lot of experience and help me out throughout the season," Duncan said. "We've worked a lot harder this year and we have better leadership."
Senior wide receiver Michael Traversa (6-3, 175) had 35 catches for 271 yards last season. Other receivers are sophomores Christian Miranda (6-2, 170), Mason Shimmel (5-10, 165) and Noah Stephens (6-4, 205).
Junior Ethan Swank (6-0, 190), a transfer from Grove City Christian, and sophomore Colter Bass (5-9, 155) will see time at running back and receiver.
Senior Dwight Diggs (6-2, 235), who was special mention all-league and honorable mention all-district last season, returns at right guard.
Senior Conner Coup (6-1, 260) is the center and senior Dustin Vanscoy (6-4, 260) will play right tackle.
Other linemen are juniors Josh Harkness (6-2, 245), Cory Miller (6-1, 235) and Kurt Rodgers (6-1, 170) and sophomore Kole Brock (5-10, 215).
Junior Zachary Ross (5-9, 160) and Miranda are kickers and Shimmel is the punter.
The line on the base 4-3 defense should feature senior Jake Whitlock (6-0, 205) and junior Shane Maxey (6-3, 245) at end. Maxey had 83.5 tackles last season.
Other linemen are senior Cody Schrecengost (6-2, 245) and sophomores Ryan Peoples (6-2, 275) and Kameron Teacher (6-1, 265).
Sophomore Rob Fusner (6-0, 225), who was a starter as a freshman, will play outside linebacker.
Junior Mason Peck (6-0, 215) is a middle linebacker and junior Jared Wilson (6-0, 215) is another outside linebacker. Wilson is a transfer from Ready.
Senior Matt Miller (6-1, 180) has moved from safety to linebacker.
Senior Gino Siravo, who was second-team all-league and honorable mention all-district last season, returns at safety.
Senior Isaac Gutierrez (5-8, 150), who started as a junior and sophomore, returns at cornerback. Other defensive backs are seniors Jeff Penn (5-8, 150) and Tre Whitehead (5-7, 155) at cornerback and sophomores Caleb Alexander (5-11, 175) and Antonio Quintana (5-11, 155) at safety.
Diggs, Duncan, Traversa, Siravo and Whitlock are captains.
"This is the best offseason that we've had and it's all going to pay off with all the hard work that we've done," Duncan said.
The biggest loss to graduation was Tory Clark, who led the team in rushing a year ago with 837 yards and 10 touchdowns on 116 carries. He also caught 35 passes for 639 yards and six touchdowns.
Clark, who had 2,169 all-purpose yards, was first-team all-league and second-team all-district as a defensive back last fall. He is playing at the University of Findlay.
Last season, the Comets finished seventh in the OCC-Central at 1-6, behind co-champions Dublin Coffman and Hilliard Davidson (6-1).
Following the addition of a seventh playoff division, Central Crossing will compete this season in Division I, Region 2.
"I like what they're doing," Harr said of the postseason expansion. "I like coaching (in Division I), I like our league. I'm very proud to have the opportunity to coach in our league. Our league is one of the best leagues in the state every year."