Phil Readey and four classmates have made the journey to become the only seniors in the Grandview Heights High School football program.
Readey, Sam Callison, Noah King, Tim Murphy and Nick Schopis will try to help the Bobcats improve on a season in which they finished 5-5 overall and fifth (3-4) in the MSL-Cardinal Division behind champion Licking Heights (7-0).
"It's weird to be a senior because when we were freshmen, those (senior) guys seemed so much older than we were," said Readey, who returns on the defensive line and at running back. "Now that seems like yesterday and this is the final season of football for most of us. We want to make the most of it."
Schopis is back at quarterback, one of four returning starters on offense along with Murphy at tight end, Readey and junior running back Joe Pinney.
"We were 5-5 last year and we feel like we were a lot better than that," Schopis said. "Our confidence is up and we want to show what we're capable of doing."
Schopis was 105-for-222 passing last season for 1,271 yards with nine touchdowns and 12 interceptions. He also is the top returning rusher with 291 yards and four touchdowns on 66 carries.
"I have a year of experience under my belt and it has slowed things down a lot," he said. "I'm seeing the field a lot better than I used to.
"It helps (also playing defensive back). On defense, I have an idea of the routes that the receivers will be running and what the quarterback will do. I also know what the defensive backs might be doing when I'm back to pass."
Pinney and Readey both were part of the Bobcats' backfield rotation a year ago. Pinney ran for 182 yards and one touchdown on 35 carries and Readey had 89 yards and one score on 21 attempts. Junior Nick Maupin also had 74 yards on 13 carries.
"We lost our entire offensive line and we lost a lot of carries, but Joe Pinney and Phil Readey had a lot of carries, Nick Maupin had a lot of carries, so skill-wise we're OK," seventh-year coach Jason Peters said. "We have an extremely coachable group and they have stayed focused on the things we want them to work on.
"I think these kids came back hungry. We had a lot of potential last year and at times we didn't live up to that. All five of our seniors have done a great job of leading us."
One of those seniors, Murphy, had 15 catches for 225 yards. He also is a defensive lineman and was second-team all-district as a punter last season with an average of 36.5 yards per attempt.
"I definitely feel like we are more of a team and I feel like more of a leader," Murphy said. "We have to work hard in the weight room because a lot of us play both ways. We don't have the numbers for a lot of one-way players."
The Bobcats have 32 players, which is one reason why the team worked hard in the weight room during the offseason.
"I feel like when we went 10-0 (in the 2011 regular season), everyone was in the weight room working hard in the offseason to get better," said Callison, who plays on the offensive and defensive lines. "Last year, I think we got a little lackadaisical, and then we also had some injuries that hurt us. We really were committed in the offseason to get better and stronger.
"I feel like this winter we were all in (the weight room), even the freshmen. We worked really hard and we really feel like a team."
King (OL/DL) said team unity would be important to the Bobcats' success.
"I feel we are more of a cohesive unit than last year, and that's important. We need to keep working hard and continue to work as a team in practice," he said. "As a senior, I'm more of a leader. We have the same drills and everything and now we have to demonstrate what the younger players need to do."
The Bobcats had two key players not return. Senior Luke Miller, who was honorable mention all-district at linebacker and caught four passes for 59 yards and two touchdowns, decided to concentrate on basketball.
Junior wide receiver Myshon Price moved from the district after having 11 catches for 226 yards and two touchdowns.
Junior Leo Readey will be the place-kicker as well as play on the offensive line and at linebacker.
"We have open competition in a lot of our positions and that will come with reps and seeing how we do during the scrimmages," Peters said. "We need to get reps under fire. Practice is practice, but when there is a different color jersey across from you, things are a little more intense."
The Bobcats open Friday, Aug. 30, at home against Centennial. They play their inaugural MSL-Ohio game Sept. 20 at home against Bexley, and their new league also includes Columbus Academy, London, Madison Plains, West Jefferson and Whitehall.
"We're going up against better competition (in the MSL-Ohio) and that will make us better," Phil Readey said. "We know we will be pushed every game."
In the new seven-division OHSAA playoff format, the Bobcats have dropped from Division V, Region 19 to Division VI, Region 21.