Brian Cross has more than 200 wins in his high school coaching career, but one thing has not changed much as he looks toward his 30th season leading a program - having the players get bigger and stronger during the offseason.

Brian Cross has more than 200 wins in his high school coaching career, but one thing has not changed much as he looks toward his 30th season leading a program - having the players get bigger and stronger during the offseason.

As he prepares the Olentangy Orange High School football team for its fourth season, Cross said the foundation for a winning team begins in the weight room.

"I think every year we want to get stronger and bigger and I think everyone has that goal," Cross said. "We want to make sure our kids don't get out of shape, so we want to have done enough running and enough core work not to get out of shape.

"We have been lifting weights three days a week and the kids have been pretty dedicated to that program. We've also started doing some agility and running drills."

The Pioneers finished 6-4 overall last season and 5-2 in the OCC-Capital Division to tie Big Walnut and Mount Vernon for second behind New Albany (7-0).

"I think maybe our biggest question would be at linebacker because we graduated all of our starting linebackers," Cross said. "We have most of our offensive line back and (junior) Brandon Schoen at running back and a couple of quarterbacks who will be pretty decent in (junior) Daniel Bull and (sophomore) Kofi Hill. We have some of our defensive linemen back, but we need to find guys to fill the spots (at linebacker). We also lost some good receivers as well."

Junior Jonathan Peddicord leads the returning linebackers and also plays fullback.

Junior Alex Smith, a 6-foot, 215-pound transfer from Watterson, may help fill a vacancy at linebacker.

The offensive line is expected to return Bill McCague (6-3, 250 pounds), a first-team all-league performer at right guard, as well as sophomores Cole Snowden (guard; 6-2, 235) and Spencer Wilson (center; 6-2, 260) and junior tight end Taylor Hardy (6-3, 210).

Junior Doug Ganim (5-9, 240) leads the defensive line at nose guard. He also is playing first singles on the tennis team this spring.

Junior Cody Martin, a 6-1, 250-pound move-in from Logan Elm, could play on the offensive and defensive lines.

"(Offseason lifting) is probably the most important factor. It helps us improve strength and speed and helps with your confidence and how you play," said Schoen, who was a first-team all-league performer last season with 742 yards rushing in 111 carries and six punt returns for 147 yards and two touchdowns. "This is the time when you build team relationships because it's important when you are around players you like. You try harder for your teammates and that helps you get the job done better."

Teams have 10 days in the offseason when coaches can work with players. Cross said he expects to use five of those days the week before two-a-day practices begin Aug. 1.

"The other days will be random days in July as we see fit and switch off on offense and defense," Cross said. "As far as 7-on-7 (passing camps), we will do one at (Dublin) Scioto on the last Thursday in July. They have about eight teams there and we play a round-robin schedule. We may also go to Gahanna or somewhere else, but Scioto is the only one we have scheduled right now."