Rebuilding is a four-letter word for most coaches. But, Morrison High School head coach Cory Bielema thinks it's a fair word to use to describe his team at this point.
That's because the Mustangs return just two starters and six letterwinners from last year's 6-4 team. It's also because Morrison has just 19 players on the varsity roster, five of them sophomores.
The two returning starters are seniors Tom Kohl and Ryan Mayberry. Kohl started at guard and defensive tackle a year ago, while Mayberry played cornerback and wide receiver in 2012.
Both have even more on their plate this season.
"You have to set a good example for the younger kids coming up, who are just starting to get used to how we do things," Mayberry said.
"I have to step up and get the younger guys going," Kohl said. "We need to get them to keep going and pick them up more."
The Mustangs, who have eight seniors and six juniors, have quite a tradition to uphold. Morrison has made nine straight trips to the playoffs.
"I think we can still shoot for the playoffs," Kohl said. "It's going to be really big to start off well."
Coming off a 6-4 campaign and being young and inexperieced, some might be expecting a down year for the Mustangs.
"We have to show people that we can play with anyone else," Mayberry said. "If they overlook us, hopefully that will help us out and maybe we can sneak some wins in."
Some of the sophomores figure to play large roles for Morrison.
"I think they're going to be good football players at some time," Bielema said. "Hopefully they can do it this year. We won't know until we get out there against Princeton. We've got a lot of unknowns right now. It's trial by fire in that sense."
Even the upperclassmen will be pressed into more significant roles than they've ever played.
"Our senior and junior classes are really small in the amount of boys who play athletics," Bielema said. "Overall, what we're doing with small numbers, I've been impressed with. They've been working hard, and they have to. They're going to have to step up and be leaders. There's no other way."
The Mustang way
• Morrison has made nine straight playoff appearances. After winning eight or more games every year from 2005 to 2011, the Mustangs won six a year ago. Morrison won state titles in 2009 and 2011.