As a first-year high school football coach last season, Keith Dimmy wanted to make sure he set his program's expectations.
Columbus South had won just three games in three seasons. But last year, the Bulldogs finished 4-6 overall.
"I was hired six weeks before the season started, so there wasn't much time to prepare," said Dimmy, an Eastmoor Academy graduate who played safety at the University of Minnesota. "I've had a year now to establish the disciplinary things and the way I want to run my program. I think we could've easily been 6-4, but we lost two games late on turnovers."
South finished 2-5 in the City League-South Division a year ago, behind Marion-Franklin (7-0), Walnut Ridge (6-1), Eastmoor (5-2), Independence (4-3) and Columbus West (3-4) and ahead of Briggs (1-6) and Africentric (0-7).
The Bulldogs open the season Friday, Aug. 30, at Whetstone with the intent of producing their first winning season since 2006, when they went 6-4.
While South had a one-two offensive punch in quarterback LePaso Walker, who threw for 1,200 yards and 13 touchdowns and rushed for 500 yards and seven scores, and senior running back Deone Lindsey (1,300 yards), the offense will center on Lindsey this season with Walker's departure.
The Bulldogs also have some experience up front in junior Zontonio Edwards and seniors Nigel Brown and Jacob Dennis, all returning starters along with senior tight end Darnell Palmer. Senior Marquan Conner will take over at center for 2013 graduate Marcus Solomon, who played on both sides of the ball.
Junior Terric O'Neal will play quarterback and throw to a young receiving corps led by returning starter and senior Dominique Covington. Junior Robert Williams, sophomore Thomas Gutierrez and freshman Dez Robinson will be in the mix.
"Terric has been impressive so far," Dimmy said. "He's done everything we've asked him to do. He's picked up the system and it kind of helps that LePaso is on my staff. He's been helping to mentor him. He kind of reminds me of (former NFL quarterback) Daunte Culpepper at 6-foot-1, 245 pounds. He's got a rocket for an arm."
South's 4-3 defense features five returning starters in Edwards (DL), Dennis (DL), Palmer (DE), Lindsey (DB) and senior linebacker Donjae Neal.
Other contributors are expected to be senior defensive end Joseph Ross, junior defensive back Kareem Harris, sophomore linebacker Devon Tyus and freshman linebacker Deaquan Taylor. Robinson also might play in the secondary.
"I think this group is tougher than the group we had last year," Dimmy said. "They've been around us and understand our expectations. I've always been involved with winning programs and I want to lead this team to the postseason."