For 17 South Tama seniors, this is their final year to leave an imprint on the Trojans' football program.
Ask any of them and they're ready.
This year's squad, particularly the senior class, wants to turn the program around from last year's 2-7 record. But they aren't just stopping at a better record - they want more.
South Tama Tyler Martens (No. 7) runs a play as the running back for the scout team offense at practice Tuesday afternoon. Martens and the scout team were running plays that Nevada might run this Friday in the season opener. STC will host Nevada at 7 p.m. Friday.
"Having seniors is the biggest difference right there, because last year we had talent, but we didn't have many seniors," senior Kyle Stephenson said. "That might have been the missing element. I think that's our strong point this year."
Many of this year's seniors have varsity experience under their belts before this season began Aug. 6. That experience, plus a year of offseason strength training and conditioning, has coach Jay Hoskey excited about the 2012 Trojans.
"I think our major strength is we're stronger," Hoskey said. "We have a bunch of kids, who have done a lot more as a team in the weight room and with our strength and conditioning program. All of our coaching staff has helped in and the kids have bought in. Man for man, we're stronger, a bit quicker and I think we're more diverse. We have more threats than we did last year. Defensively, we're just sounder at every position. We're more physical."
Varsity Football Schedule
Aug. 24homevs. Nevada
Aug. 31awayat Vinton-Shellsburg
Sept. 7homevs. Dallas Center-Grimes
Sept. 14awayat Newton
Sept. 21homevs. Saydel Community
Sept. 28awayat Ballard
Oct. 5homevs. Boone
Oct. 12awayat Benton Community
Oct. 19homevs. Grinnell
* all games begin at 7 p.m.
The Trojans are led by quarterback Sam Kuhter, who started a year ago. While Kuhter can throw well, it's his athleticism and speed that make him a dual-threat for the Trojans. He passed for 1,456 yards and ran for 191 last fall.
"Sam brings us the opportunity to run the option," Hoskey said. "His skills allow us to spread the field, because the defense has to play him, not only as a passer, but also as a runner.
"A lot of our offense hinges on quarterback decision-making," he said. "He's a good, intelligent kid and he likes the game. If he gets settled into a groove, he's going to make a big difference."
Leading the way in the backfield is Stephenson, who combined for more than 1,000 yards last year. Stephenson also brings speed to the football field, as he finished sixth in the Class 3A 100-meter dash in the spring.
Other running backs include Eric Lux and Darryl Bidwell. Lux caught 27 balls for 555 yards last year as a tight end. This year, Lux will be a threat at several offensive positions. Bidwell also brings speed to the backfield as he was a member of the Trojans' state-qualifying 4x100 and 4x200 relay teams.
"Obviously, he's a breakaway threat most of the time," Hoskey said of Stephenson. "Eric Lux is in there, too, and he gives us a lot of diversity. The thing is he's a good runner, good blocker and good receiver. He doesn't make many mistakes and he's dependable. We can use him in many spots."
South Tama has several other players who will help at the skill positions. Jose Fonseca, Clay Waterbury, Levi Kaufman, Caleb Davenport and Vincent Lasley can all play wide receiver and some will be threats at tight end for the Trojans.
"Fonseca is a good athlete," Hoskey said. "We played him at center last year, but that wasn't the position for him. He's got too much athletic ability. He's doing a good job. Then we can come right back with Vinny. He's big target and catches everything that gets close to him. He's a good runner after he catches the ball, too.
"Levi is dependable," he said. "He's not very big, but he's strong. He's turned into a good runner with the ball. He's a pretty tough little competitor. On the other side, we've got Clay Waterbury, who's probably our best route runner. He's got great hands and he's one of the top students in the school, so he makes good decisions. We have a few other guys that will help us, too."
Of course, no football team has been successful without a strong offensive and defensive line. Sophomore Ian Slagle (6-foot, 3 inches and 285 pounds) leads the way in the trenches. Senior Trevor Rohach (5-11, 235) is also another anchor for the Trojans. Lane McAdoo saw regular action a year ago, too. Garrett Hoskey, Austin Lowe, Jake Herriott, Dalton Vest and Adam Glendy are expected to play on both sides of the ball for STC.
"Rohach and Slagle played together on the right side, so we decided to keep them there," Hoskey said. "Obviously, they're the more experienced ones. Lane McAdoo played all of last year at left tackle, too. Then we have some other guys that will see some playing time. We have eight guys that can do a good job for us on the line."
Improved size, speed and strength don't automatically equal wins on the football field. The STC players and coaches know they must execute better in all phases if they wish to achieve their goals.
"Make tackles is a big thing," Stephenson said of areas to improve this fall. "We can't miss tackles. We also need to execute better on offense and be better conditioned."
South Tama will find out how prepared it is when it starts Friday. The Trojans host Nevada at 7 p.m. at the STC field.
"There's always slight apprehension if you have everything covered," Hoskey said. "I think we're good to go. The nice thing is we're mostly a veteran team. We're putting in new stuff, but we're mostly a veteran team. I think that helps us catch on to things quicker. We're anxious, I think."
"We're playing a good team," Hoskey said. "They were 3-6 last year, but they are a lot better team this year. They bring back a lot of guys, too, and they're well coached. They are well-versed at what they do."
The players are ready to start hitting someone else and they'll get that chance Friday.
"I think everyone is really pumped for Friday," Stephenson said. "I just have a good feeling about this season right now. It's nice to start my senior year at home."
South Tama is beginning a new 3A district, that includes Boone, Newton, Dallas Center-Grimes and Grinnell, this year. Grinnell is the only team in the district that saw postseason action last year. However, Hoskey believes the district can be wide open.
"This year, there isn't that super strength at the top," Hoskey said. "What we do have is a lot of hungry teams. Most teams are in the same boat. We feel like we can be right in there. We have to play it game by game."