One of the buzz words surrounding the Whetstone football team's approach to the offseason is "stronger."
That's the word junior quarterback Alex Hurd used to describe how his team needs to be with its mindset, with its team chemistry and from a physical standpoint by getting into the weight room.
The Braves finished 3-7 overall for the third consecutive season and went 2-4 in the City League-North Division.
"We've just got to be stronger in everything," Hurd said. "I just want to keep getting better and working on my craft. One of our (former assistant coaches, Curtese Poole), told me every day to master your craft and that's what I try to do, looking at film and learning everything about it that I can."
Hurd and the Braves flashed their potential in Week 9 during a 20-6 loss to visiting East, which finished 6-4 for its first winning season since 1999.
Against the Tigers, Hurd completed 29 of 41 passes for 311 yards and a touchdown.
Whetstone went a combined 19-11 from 2007-09, finishing with a winning record each of the three seasons. However, the Braves haven't finished above .500 since 2013, when they went 6-4.
Among the biggest positives this fall in coach Tom Jones' second season was an increase in participation numbers, despite having only six seniors contributing by season's end because of injuries.
"We've got a lot of returning juniors, but first things first, we've got to get in the classroom and got to get in the weight room," Jones said. "This year we had a lot of positives and we've got to build on that and fix our mistakes from this year. There were some positives from the East game, but we wanted to win that one so it kind of stung. Defensively, it was one of our better games, and Alex obviously threw pretty well."
Hurd finished 109-for-196 passing for 1,148 yards with 11 touchdowns and 11 interceptions and senior running back Rashaun Broomfield had 442 yards rushing and six touchdowns on 53 carries and 44 receptions for 683 yards and eight scores.
Broomfield had 14 carries for 239 yards and three touchdowns and four catches for 106 yards and three scores in a 55-8 win over Briggs on Sept. 6 and had 12 receptions for 181 yards and one score against East.
Senior wide receiver Johney Kincaid had 28 receptions for 173 yards, junior Gabe Jordan had 16 catches for 182 yards and two touchdowns and junior Khris Watkins-Sellers had 10 receptions and one touchdown rushing.
Junior Darric McClinton was the team's No. 2 rusher, finishing with 71 carries for 322 yards and four touchdowns.
Junior Zach Falor started at center and long snapper and should be back to lead an offensive line that also included junior Zane Fent, sophomore Martevion Hawkins and freshman Malcolm Pierce.
"We've shown we're a brotherhood," Falor said. "We've gotten through some tough stuff this year and are still sticking to it because of our determination."
Defensively, Jordan (25 tackles, 1 interception), McClinton (36.5 tackles, 4 sacks, 3 tackles for loss) and Watkins-Sellers (21.5 tackles, 1 interception) are linebackers eligible to return.
Sophomores Felix Prewitt (18.5 tackles, 1 interception) and Abdourahman Sallah (23 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss, 2 interceptions) should lead the secondary, with Fent (24.5 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss) and junior Grace Baraka (45.5 tackles, 11 tackles for loss, 3 sacks) leading the line.
Others eligible to return include freshmen defensive backs Breyon King and Antonio Morris and junior kicker Joren Clem, who made 19 of 23 extra-point attempts and three of six field-goal attempts.
Hurd punted 36 times, leaving nine inside the opponents' 20-yard line.
"The offseason kind of determines who puts in the work, and every year is a fresh start," Jones said. "You try and make moves and go forward and sometimes those plans don't work out, but we didn't go backwards. We tried to put in a new offense. Defensively, it was the same scheme that it's been for a couple years, but at one point we had four freshmen starting. The nice thing is that we were able to have a (junior varsity)."