For Marysville High School football coach Jeff Gafford, his biggest objective entering the offseason was to improve his team's consistency on the field.

For Marysville High School football coach Jeff Gafford, his biggest objective entering the offseason was to improve his team's consistency on the field.

The Monarchs were impressive at times last fall, but those stretches didn't lead to a winning season. Marysville finished 5-5 overall and sixth in the OCC-Cardinal Division at 3-4 as Westerville South (6-1) won the title.

"We didn't see an area where we said, 'OK we need to get stronger,'" Gafford said. "It wasn't an area where we said we need to get bigger or whatever. Our area of improvement is just going to be in consistency and execution. We think we have big, strong kids and we just need to make sure we get them in the right position and we get them knowing what they're going to do and then finish the play."

Gafford said he stresses the importance of an effective conditioning program in the offseason.

"We invest our time in our training. We invest our time in our students," he said. "We lift three days a week. We do speed training two days a week."

Players in the program also are offered a strength training class during the school year as part of the physical education curriculum. As a physical education teacher in the school, Gafford has a chance to oversee his players' progress.

"Those kids who are multiple-sport athletes can stay up on their weight training by attending class," said Gafford, who also teaches math at the school. "Anybody who is playing a sport, he's being trained athletically, and then if he can get his weight room (work) done during the day in class then by all means play as many sports as you want."

Out of the 85 players in the program, about 40 underclassmen are participating in the physical education class, Gafford said.

The summer training session will include participating in 7-on-7 passing leagues. Last year, the Monarchs attended leagues at Dublin Scioto and Miami University.

"I like our offseason program," Gafford said. "It's fundamentally sound. I know it works and I think our kids are well prepared physically to go into the season."

Marysville expects to return several key players from last season.

Heading the list should be tight end and defensive end Craig Runyan, who has received offers from Division I colleges. Runyan underwent shoulder surgery in the offseason but is expected to begin summer activities at full strength.

"Craig Runyan returns at tight end and defensive end," Gafford said. "He was our most valuable player as a junior. He's already received scholarship offers from Toledo, Bowling Green and Kent State, so he's probably our most talented athlete."

Also expected back is Connor Devine, who was moved to quarterback from wide receiver in Week 4 last season.

Other players expected to contribute are offensive lineman Luke Blumenschein, fullback Joseph Boyd, safety and running back Kody Davisson and middle linebacker Dakota Romine.

Gafford doesn't expect any players to transfer out of the school and noted that enrollment in the district increases by an average of about 70 students each year.

"We're the biggest school in Union County," Gafford said. "Most of the kids who are in Marysville grew up in Marysville and most of the kids who play on the team have known each other since kindergarten."