The 2013 Sterling Golden Warrior roller coaster started at a peak last August, when over 2 days the Warriors beat the Metamora Redbirds with big play after big play.
The Warriors' opener started on Friday night and ended on Saturday afternoon, because the game was suspended by lightning. On both days, the Warriors were all about the big play, scoring on strikes of 91, 54, 48, and 40 yards.
The 42-28 upset win was a big one, but the rest of the season was a wild ride consisting of ups and downs.
It ended on a down – a 5-4 record – and the first non-playoffs season since 2001.
"We didn't like that we let the graduating seniors down," Sterling quarterback Sterling Thornton said. "We didn't like that we ended the run of playoffs, and now we feel like we need to make up for it."
With a topsy-turvy season in the rearview mirror, it's no wonder that third-year coach Jon Schlemmer has been most impressed by how even-keel his 2014 squad has been over the 25 practices the team has had this August.
"This first few weeks is a grind," Schlemmer said. "It's tough to go this long hitting each other.
"It's so important to have a group that doesn't go from one extreme to the other. You don't want that great practice followed by a bad one. You want it to be consistent, not too high, not too low."
The temperament of the squad should help it stay calm for the long drive to Metamora on Friday for the season opener.
Tanner Massey, who is a captain along with Joe Brouilette, Logan Cheshire, and Brandon Dennis, feels his squad learned the lessons from a year ago.
"This is a different team," Massey said. "It has a different feel. We get along better. It's our job then, as captains, to get the team going and ready to play when we get off the bus on Friday."
Much like Sterling, Metamora has spent the offseason licking wounds from a difficult season.
The Redbirds went 4-5 and missed the playoffs for the first time since 1993.
"Something we've told the kids is that we are kidding ourselves if we think we've been working any harder than they have," Schlemmer said. "That's a great program with great coaches, and I am sure they are more than ready to be a power again."
Metamora returns starting quarterback Nick Holman, who stepped in to start last season after an injury to the original starter Brendan Nachtrieb.
Holman rushed for 446 yards and seven TDs, and he completed 71 of 131 passes for 1,157 yard and six touchdowns.
Senior Tim Brennan is the leading rusher back, after plodding for 504 yards last year.
No matter the names and numbers, Massey – a 1-technique defensive tackle – knows that it's all about reading the keys.
"It's all about the pulling guards," Massey said. "We've been talking about that the whole preseason. The guards will lead you to the play, and we just have to flow to the ball."
Where: Metamora High School
When: 7:30 p.m. Friday
Radio: 94.3 FM
Twitter: Follow Patrick Mason (@pm222)