In the first year with Scott Wetzel at the helm, Delaware Hayes went 6-4 overall to post its first winning record since 2009.
He has challenged the Pacers to continue the climb this season.
"One of our big advantages over last year is the kids having a year under their belts in terms of schemes, our system, practice schedule and expectations," said Wetzel, whose team opens Aug. 30 at home against Buckeye Valley. "As good of a year as we had last year, going 6-4, our kids were disappointed in a couple of our games.
"We're going in with high expectations that we're going to be successful and that's good. That's what we want from them and it's the trend we're heading into right now. We believe there's an opportunity there for us to be a pretty good football team."
With 24 seniors and plenty of experience back, Wetzel has been pleased with the leadership. But he said the confidence will be the key when facing the better teams in the OCC-Cardinal Division.
"Our four losses were to the Hilliards (Bradley and Darby) and Dublins (Jerome and Scioto) in our league and I think we lacked confidence going into those games based on past results," he said. "But we've got six full-time starters back on both sides of the ball and some others who had spot starts last year.
"Our biggest challenge is getting the kids to recognize they don't want to be 6-4 again. They don't want to match last year. They should want to exceed that and take their game and our program to a new level."
The offense has a slew of playmakers along with three senior linemen returning in Max Bruney, Zach Pokorny and Dylan Seiler.
Junior Blake Eiland is a third-year starter at quarterback in the Pacers' multiple-set scheme.
"Blake gives us a nice dimension in terms of a running-throwing quarterback," Wetzel said. "But every week, teams are going to try to take this away or that away and we have to be prepared to do more than one thing with the defenses we'll face.
"He understands he doesn't have to win a game for us. He's just got to run our offense. That's huge. He's got nice weapons around him and he just needs to deliver the ball to them when he can."
Eiland was 92-for-152 passing for 1,080 yards with six touchdowns and four interceptions and also rushed for 955 yards and eight scores a year ago.
Junior Jahi Broussard-Nash, who missed nearly four games with an injury last season, returns as the top running back. Senior Luke Jackson and junior Logan Eubanks will get time at fullback, with seniors Laquans Banks-Christian and Colby Cooper expected to make plays at receiver.
Senior tight end Nabil Abdus-salaam also will figure prominently into the mix after catching 16 passes for 290 yards.
"We have a nice running back in Jahi and good receivers," Wetzel said. "We have people in place who are multiple threats to run the ball, throw the ball and mix in both. Jahi was on his way to 1,000 yards last year until his injury. We don't have to rely on Blake to do everything for us. That's a heavy load if he has to do it all himself."
Eiland was first-team all-league, while Broussard-Nash was special mention and Abdus-salaam was honorable mention.
The Pacers' 3-3-5 defense is anchored by senior Jacob Hunsaker and juniors Sebastian Meehan and Kaleb Shaw at linebacker.
They will play behind a line of seniors Keyshawn Mack and Everett Beach and junior Aaron Koehler, although Pokorny and senior Shane Ferguson also will be in the rotation.
Meehan had 91 tackles, six tackles for loss and two forced fumbles and was first-team all-league.
"We have a very strong linebacker corps and, fortunately, we've developed some depth on the line," Wetzel said. "Shane has turned into a nice player and Aaron is back after being injured much of last year and he's a good one. Pokorny is very solid. I expect them all to play so we can keep bodies and legs fresh."
The secondary has three returnees in seniors Addison Harvey and Ethan Hazelton and junior Orion Ward along with a pair of newcomers in Eubanks and junior Ty Gillman.
Harvey had 33.5 tackles with three interceptions and three fumble recoveries.
Senior kicker Kyle Klumpp is back after going 31-for-31 on extra-point attempts and 5-for-6 on field-goal attempts, with a long of 45 yards. He is trying to recover from an injury in time for the opener, however.
Junior Jared McKeen is the punter, and he also was handling the kicking until Klumpp is ready to return.
According to Wetzel, Seiler is the top-ranked long-snapper in the state.
Quarterbacks: *Blake Eiland (jr., 5-10, 180), Austin Dowell (so., 6-1, 165)
Running backs: *Jahi Broussard-Nash (sr., 5-8, 170), * Luke Jackson (sr., 5-10, 180), Logan Eubanks (jr., 5-8, 150)
Receivers: *Laquans Banks-Christian (sr., 5-10, 180), *Colby Cooper (sr., 6-4, 185), Armon Weaver (so., 5-9, 135)
Tight end: *Nabil Abdus-salaam (sr., 6-3, 200)
Linemen: *Max Bruney (sr., 6-0, 265), *Gavin Kenney (jr., 6-3, 290), *Matt McGeath (jr., 6-3, 235), *Zach Pokorny (sr., 6-2, 275), *Dylan Seiler (sr., 5-11, 245), Logan Gibson (jr., 5-10, 270), Marshall Klingel (jr., 6-2, 230)
Linemen: *Everett Beach (sr., 6-2, 275), *Aaron Koehler (jr., 5-10, 165), *Keyshawn Mack (sr., 6-0, 180), Shane Ferguson (sr., 6-2, 180), Pokorny
Linebackers: *Jacob Hunsaker (sr., 6-4, 215), *Sebastian Meehan (jr., 6-1, 205), *Kaleb Shaw (jr, 6-0, 200), Noah Hill (sr., 6-0, 165), Corbin May (sr., 6-0, 190)
Secondary: *Eubanks, *Ty Gillman (jr., 5-10, 150), *Addison Harvey (sr., 6-0, 170), *Ethan Hazelton (sr., 5-6, 155), *Orion Ward (jr., 5-8, 150), Eiland, Braeden McGrady (jr., 5-10, 155), Callan Young (sr., 5-9, 170)
Kickers: *Kyle Klumpp (sr., 5-10, 140), Jared McKeen (jr., 6-0, 175)
Returners: To be determined
Long snapper: *Seiler
(*Denotes projected starter)