Last fall, the Gahanna Lincoln High School football team dealt with the adjustments that are typical following an offseason coaching change.

Last fall, the Gahanna Lincoln High School football team dealt with the adjustments that are typical following an offseason coaching change.

When John Snoad came in to replace Mike Lanza, who had been at Gahanna since 1995, he brought with him new offensive and defensive systems. The Lions, who had few returning starters from 2007, adapted but never seemed to hit their stride, and they missed the playoffs for the first time since 2004.

As the team approaches the start of Snoad's second season, optimism is prevalent among both players and coaches.

"We've got great attitudes," Snoad said. "It's a very team-oriented group of guys, with great hustle. We're excited about the prospects."

"We're bonding more than last year," senior defensive end Darien Moody said. "We're more of a unit."

The changes in the coaching staff affected not only schemes, but offseason preparation as well. Players said participation in weightlifting and conditioning could have been better, but they have seen a noticeable difference this past offseason.

"More people have been coming into the weight room, not just the starters," senior fullback Nick Earl said. "Our backups our stronger, too."

"Our team is a lot stronger and our technique is a little more solid," senior linebacker Tyler Hayes said.

Last season, Gahanna was 4-3 and in position to make a run at a fifth consecutive playoff berth. However, a 29-21 loss to Grove City in week eight undermined those hopes and the Lions could not recover, as they lost their next two to finish 4-6 overall.

In the OCC-Ohio Division, Gahanna tied Pickerington North and Groveport for fourth at 3-4 behind Pickerington Central (7-0), Grove City (6-1) and Lancaster (4-3) and ahead of Reynoldsburg (2-5) and Newark (0-7).

Grove City will not field a team this season, and Gahanna has replaced that game with a non-league home game against Worthington Kilbourne on Oct. 16.

The schemes haven't changed much in Snoad's second season, as the Lions will run a spread offense and use multiple fronts on defense, but he doesn't expect his team will have to lean on its defense the way it did last season.

The Lions return the majority of their offensive starters, but Snoad believes his defense will be solid as well.

"We expect our offense to be more productive," Snoad said. "And we expect our defense to be cat-quick to the football. I just think a well-balanced offensive attack is going to be really big for us. We've got to be able to spread the ball around, and the passing game is critical right now."

Offensively, the Lions have experience at most skill positions except quarterback.

Senior Earl Cunningham is one of the area's most dangerous punt and kick returners, and he also will be a contributor at tailback. Cunningham ran for 486 yards and two touchdowns last season. Junior Rashawn Ponder also saw action at tailback last season and will be a factor this fall.

Earl returns for his second season as the starting fullback, and senior Brice Frentzel leads the receiving corps after catching nine passes for 70 yards last season.

The battle for the quarterback spot is down to senior Philip Johnson or junior Tanner Zwelling, who spent last season as the varsity backup and did see some action.

On the offensive line, several players return with experience, including seniors Austin Lewis, Spencer Fisher and Clay Moore and junior Mike Shaw. Snoad said plenty of less experienced players will have to contribute as well.

Defensively, the experience is primarily in the secondary and at linebacker. Senior cornerback C.J. Bryant and senior free safety Casey Goad both started last season, and Hayes and senior Emaari Watson saw plenty of action at linebacker.

Senior Bryan Hairston is expected to fill the other cornerback spot. At linebacker, Snoad said Moore, senior Max George and junior Kameryn Carter are also seeking starting spots.

Moody is back for his second season as a starting defensive end, but the rest of the defensive line spots were not determined after the first scrimmage.

Snoad said he likes the attitude he's seen from his players, but he said maintaining that mentality throughout the season will be the true test.

"This team has to come together, first of all," Snoad said. "And secondly, when we're on the ropes, they have to jell and bond and they have to respond. That's got to be something that's a big change for us. We can't buckle under pressure."