It's been almost two decades since the Watterson High School football team had a two-year stretch as rough as this one.

It's been almost two decades since the Watterson High School football team had a two-year stretch as rough as this one.

In the early years of former coach Mike Golden's tenure, the Eagles went 5-5 in 1990 and 4-6 in 1991 -- failing to make the postseason either season -- before beginning a six-year run in which they won at least nine games.

Watterson is hoping its fortunes turn around in a similar fashion this fall.

After going 6-4 and failing to make the playoffs for the first time since 1991 two years ago, the Eagles made it back to the postseason but finished just 5-6 last season.

Watterson, which also went 1-1 in the CCL-Silver Division to finish second to DeSales (2-0), opens Friday at Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary and has one other new team on its schedule in Cincinnati LaSalle (Oct. 2 at home).

"We're very focused," senior running back Mark Theado said. "We all have the bitter taste of defeat in our mouths from last year, and all we want is to get back up this year."

Watterson, which lost 32 players to graduation, appears most experienced on the offensive line and at linebacker.

Senior Craig Freeman (6-foot-1, 275 pounds), the starter at center, is one of three captains along with Theado (6-1, 225) and linebacker/tight end Matt Schweitzer (6-3, 225).

Freeman should be joined on the offensive line by seniors Kurt May (G, 6-6, 315), Ben Rutkowski (T, 6-5, 250), Ryan Alu (T, 6-1, 268), Andrew Buening (G, 6-3, 220), Neil Seguin (G, 6-0, 205) and Billy Conkle (G, 6-3, 210) and junior T.J. Gilles (6-3, 283).

Junior Matt Redfield (6-0, 207) had 32 solo and 112 assisted tackles last year and will be at inside linebacker along with juniors Michael Szaraz (5-10, 175) and Ray Cook (6-1, 188). Schweitzer had 58 tackles and leads an outside linebacking corps that also includes Theado and junior Daniel Gelpi (6-0, 186).

Despite those apparent areas of strength, coach Dan Bjelac believes his team could be deepest at the skill positions.

"We've got good speed," said Bjelac, who is 51-21 in six seasons. "Offensively we'll do some wing-T and some multiple pro and shotgun formations. We're basically just a pro-style offense."

Taking over at quarterback for 2009 graduate Pat Nester is senior Greg Hock (6-0, 175), with junior Patrick Rhomberg (6-1, 190) also at the position.

Senior Dominic Clegg (5-11, 185) has been moved to wide receiver after playing quarterback a year ago.

Watterson's leading rushers last season were 2009 graduates Kevin Obyc (662 yards, nine touchdowns) and Ryan Kiger (402 yards).

Theado is the leading returning rusher (181 yards) and will be at fullback along with Cook, Gelpi and Redfield.

Others in the backfield will include senior Dorian Gabrek, junior Kadell Nevell and Szaraz.

Junior Nick Liimatta (5-11, 160) saw significant action at wide receiver and will be among those stepping in for 2009 graduates Jordan Gelhaus (16 catches for 191 yards) and Seth Willoughby (14 catches for 172 yards).

Also at the position will be seniors Marc Elberson (6-2, 180), Taylor Glancey (6-3, 210) and P.J. Malagisi (5-9, 167) and juniors Connor Geraghty (6-2, 172) and Brad McCurdy (5-11, 162).

Schweitzer will be the tight end replacing graduate Colin Boone (nine catches for 185 yards).

Defensively, Watterson has little returning experience on the line or in the secondary.

Junior Hunter Maynard (6-1, 285) is a transfer from Teays Valley who is expected to step in at nose guard.

Also on the line will be Alu, Conkle, Freeman, Seguin and junior Justin McCarthy (6-1, 211).

Geraghty, Liimatta, McCurdy and Malagisi are working at cornerback and Clegg, Elberson and Rhomberg are at safety.

Gabrek will be the kicker, junior Tim Carter is expected to punt and Gabrek and Liimatta are among a group that could return kicks and punts.

The Eagles have lost their last three matchups to DeSales after winning the previous nine.

They fell to the Stallions 21-17 in the regular season and 20-17 in a Division II, Region 7 first-round game last year.

Both DeSales and Watterson have moved to Division III, Region 10 for the next two years.

"The hardest thing to do is focus on the process, but that's what we're trying to do to get better," Bjelac said. "Overall we're executing fairly well. Defensively we've been hustling to the ball pretty well. Everything's been going pretty smoothly so far."