One of the less obvious drawbacks the Franklin Heights High School football team endured last fall after not having a team in 2009 might have occurred inside the locker room.
According to coach Rodney Hopkins, it took time for the players who were returning from other schools and a talented but small group of newcomers to jell.
Hopkins is planning to create more cohesiveness this offseason by taking the Falcons in July to Wittenberg University - his alma mater - for a team camp.
"We're going to take the guys down to Wittenberg to try to help bring more team unity," Hopkins said. "When we had a year off from football, some of the guys went to other schools. You lose that brotherhood."
The Falcons went 5-5 in 2008 but stumbled last fall to an 0-10 finish that included an 0-7 mark in the OCC-Capital Division behind champion New Albany (7-0). They opened with a 23-21 loss to visiting Ready but lost every other game by at least two touchdowns, including a 34-20 setback to school-district rival Central Crossing in Week 3.
Hopkins, a 1995 Cincinnati Purcell Marion graduate who played wide receiver at Wittenberg, is planning a more straight-forward approach next season, particularly on offense.
With junior fullback John Pyles behind an offensive line that should include his sophomore brother, Josh Pyles, and sophomore Robert Follrod, the Falcons again expect to run the triple-option offense.
Hopkins installed the offense last year after Franklin Heights had run a form of the spread under former coach Jeff Pica.
After graduating from Wittenberg, Hopkins coached football in Texas for five years before returning to serve as an assistant at Thomas Worthington in 2007 and '08 and at Otterbein University in 2009.
"We're going to simplify our system and stick to running the triple-option," Hopkins said. "I coached it at a school when I was down in Texas. John Pyles did have a decent amount of carries last year, but we're moving him from more of a slotback to fullback. Josh Pyles played right tackle as a sophomore and has a great work ethic and works hard in the weight room. He's got a very high football IQ. Robert Follrod played left tackle, and we're probably moving him to guard."
Although the Falcons return all but one of their coaches from last year, the team was "senior heavy," Hopkins said.
Hopkins believes a number of factors have caused his program's overall numbers to be down since the return of football last year, including the $150 pay-to-participate fee.
There were only 15 freshmen out last fall, although the group has talent, according to Hopkins.
"Our biggest thing is hopefully increasing our numbers," Hopkins said. "We weren't able to run a freshman team last year because we only had 15 in that class, so we're trying to get some fundraisers going. (Our numbers are) definitely down. The guys in the freshman class weren't able to play as eighth-graders.
"It's rough. The biggest thing is getting the offseason workouts going again. Now we're going through a process of building something. We'll be a young team."