Meskwaki Settlement School head football coach Todd Dale said this season has been the most fun he has had since installing the program four years ago.
Whether or not that results in wins and another trip to the postseason remains to be seen.
"The kids want to get better, and they are getting better every day," Dale said. "We have great competition this year, which hasn't always been the case in the year's past. Practices have been great so far."
The Meskwaki Settlement football team brings back seven letter-winners from last year’s 4-6 squad. Front row, from left: Royce Timberwolf, Jeffrey Jefferson and Tyus Grant. Back: Darrion Murray, Demarce Keahna, Damon Whitebreast and Eamman Tahahwah.
Dale is optimistic about a playoff season but admits his team is really young and inexperienced.
"We have five returning starters, but we only have two seniors and one junior and the rest are freshmen and sophomores," Dale said.
Of the five returning starters back this season, four were starters as freshmen last year.
That group includes Royce Timberwolf, Darrion Murray, Demarce Kehna and Damon Whitebreast. Junior Tyus Grant also returns as a starter and is expected to start the season at quarterback.
Dale said Grant could move to running back if his current backup QB develops enough to take over the signal caller position. Until then, Dale and his coaching staff are in search of a starting running back.
"We are up in the air at a lot of different spots," Dale said. "We have a good freshman class. We hate to just throw them to the fire, but that is the situation that we are in at this point."
Grant rushed for 351 yards on offense last year and had 71 tackles on defense. The squad will need to find a way to replace Winston Wolf, who rushed for 1,105 yards and 15 TDs last year, while also scoring two receiving TDs and contributing 71 tackles on defense.
The roster is 17 large this season, which is the most Dale has had in his four seasons at the helm. And he sees plenty of promise with this year's group.
"I don't know yet if we are a playoff team, but I can say we have football players now," Dale said. "Things are going in the right direction."
With Grant playing QB, the Warriors also return Whitebreast at center as well as Keahna and Murray at the guard spots.
The Warriors advanced to the postseason in their second year of existence before finishing 4-6 this past season. Dale said one thing that is different this year is that his entire coaching staff from last year is back in 2012.
"That will make a huge difference," Dale said. "I had lost at least one coach from the staff each of first two seasons but have everyone back from last year. It makes thing so much easier when you don't have new guys to introduce all the time."
Dale sees Melcher-Dallas as one of the favorites in the district this season. Melcher-Dallas will likely start the season ranked in the preseason poll.
The Warriors also will have to find a replacement game in Week 6 as now former district foe Harmony decided to drop their program a few weeks back.
The team is looking at Ankeny Christian and maybe Riceville as possible replacements, but Dale said nothing has been decided yet.
"Anything is possible," Dale said in regards to another playoff berth. "We are working hard and could find ourselves back there. They are not afraid to hit. We have some good football players on this team."