Anthony Naples acknowledges that the best-case scenario for him and the Mount Vernon High School football program is that they build from what was accomplished the last four seasons under former coach Gary Keller.
With players such as Leevi Stump expected to remain in the fold next season, at least that process should be somewhat easier.
After Keller stepped down last December following the Yellow Jackets' first winning season since 2003, it took the school's administration more than three months to hire a replacement.
Naples, who coached Westland to a 10-20 overall record from 2002-04 and has been the athletics director at Madison Plains the last two years, was hired April 4.
"You always feel a little late if you're not hired in January," Naples said. "The important thing is getting as many of the guys into the weight room as we can. They're all coming in in the mornings at 6:45 (a.m.), and everybody is making sacrifices."
Naples, who formerly coached at Brookfield (1-9 in one season) in northeast Ohio and served as an assistant at Lock Haven University in Lock Haven, Pa., inherits a program that was rebuilt under Keller.
The Yellow Jackets went 0-10 and 1-9 in Keller's first two seasons but improved to 3-7 in 2009 and were on the cusp of making the Division I, Region 3 playoffs last year.
Mount Vernon tied Big Walnut and Olentangy Orange for second in the OCC-Capital Division at 5-2 behind New Albany (7-0). The Yellow Jackets had a chance to make the playoffs heading into the final week of the regular season but lost to New Albany 21-6 and settled for a 6-4 record.
Keller was named the district's Coach of the Year last fall.
After going 7-3 in 2003, Mount Vernon won just two games from 2004-06.
"(Going 6-4 last year) shows it can be done," Naples said. "Now let's take the next step. We want to get into the playoffs and win the OCC. It's been really exciting. It's going to be great to work with a bunch of kids that are excited to do what's right. They're good at basketball and good at baseball, and a lot of kids are starting to talk about football."
The expected return of Stump gives Naples' optimism additional fuel.
Stump, a 5-foot-10, 160-pound running back who will be a senior next fall, made second-team all-district last fall. He rushed for 875 yards and 12 touchdowns and finished with 17 total scores.
Shawn Maxwell is another junior who should be back after he completed 21 of 47 passes for 239 yards and three touchdowns while splitting time at quarterback.
Junior Bradley Fenton (6-3, 185) was one of the team's leading tacklers last season and also should return.
"We're excited about Leevi," Naples said. "I've watched some film on him, and he's been in the weight room trying to get a lot bigger. We've got some other guys like Shawn Maxwell who saw some time at quarterback last year and Bradley Fenton who is a defensive guy. Those are a couple other guys who do a great job in the weight room."