Since Scott Godfrey's stepped into the lead role at Warrensburg-Latham four years ago, he's stressed establishing a winning culture.
After building a steady, positive trend the last few years, the Cardinals broke into the '16 playoffs before winning not one, but two, postseason games.
So coming off a 7-5 season that brought home Warrensburg's first playoff wins since 1987 was rather significant. If there was ever a year to come close to checking the box next to a winning culture, 2016 was it.
But Godfrey knows there's still another hill to climb.
"I think we're getting there," he said. "I think that we snuck up on some people last year and I think playing with expectations, that's the next step that we need to take.
"Now that we have that target, how do we respond?"
It helps that Warrensburg has a few more players to help deal with higher expectations. Many will probably need some time before seeing varsity field, but a bigger influx of freshman and sophomores into the program is part of establishing that culture.
And in a time where programs, especially at smaller schools like Warrensburg, are having a hard time fielding freshman or even JV teams, Godfrey suddenly has a chance to give younger players more reps before hitting the big stage.
"Yeah, we're up over 40 (players out for the summer). That's the first time we've had more than 40," Godfrey said. "For the first couple of years, we were in the 20s.
"It's a big deal to have a freshman team, at a 1A school with a shrinking enrollment? That's a big deal."
Even with the bigger target, it's still hard to catch the Lewis twins, Dionte and Diondre. And now that they've had a couple years of experience, that should only help their decisions on the field.
Godfrey still tries to push them any way he can, letting them know Jorden Tedford and Mitchell Leathers might be a little bit closer to catching them.
"I give them a hard time about it," Godfrey said. "Tell them they're nipping at their heels a little bit."
Replacing a legend
It's a new season for Newton, one without the record-setting running back Mitch Bierman and a massive senior class.
But the Eagles aren't finished and aren't ready to stop the three straight seasons of double-digit wins.
How that can continue is Newton's biggest strength is at perhaps the most important area -- on the lines. Center Gabe Fulton anchors the line as a four-year starter and fellow starters Wade Frohning and Seth Wills are back, too.
"I think the first thing is with the group that's coming back, they've got to put the time and the work into it," Newton coach Jason Fulton said. "Continue to build on that. Year before that was a big group, but the group of seniors for the fall is a big group, too. It's their turn. It's time to step up to the plate."
Brad Pethtel and Nick Cartright have graduated, but Nick Tarr and Mitchell Stark are there to step in. Both picked up playing time to prepare for a starting spot last year, giving Newton a great core to open up big holes again.
"I think for sure. The line has been really good for us," coach Fulton said. "These guys have seen the success, and no doubt we have to build on that. As good as Mitch is, if you don't put a good line in front of him, he's not going to have the big holes to run through."
And while there isn't a Mitch Bierman, and it would be hard to find another running back ready to climb the IHSA record books, Fulton said Newton does have four running backs that should have a chance to shine together.
A couple of those are Connor Brown, a senior, and Connor Bierman, a junior, both of which picked up carries and found the end zone last season. Two others in Dawson Phillips, a junior, and Adam Bridges, a sophomore, give Newton plenty of options. Bridges showed his speed last year running the 100-meter dash.
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And although each brings their own set of skills to the table, Fulton's not going to change the system that offensive coordinator Brian Halsey implemented a couple of years ago.
"The system's in place," Fulton said. "The four backs we have fit very well into the system and part of the reason is that we have the offensive linemen to run it."
Argenta's rushing trio standing out
It's helpful that Steve Kirk came up within the Argenta-Oreana program, giving him a leg up on knowing his team and having an established relationship with the players.
"From a football standpoint, it's not any different," Kirk said. "The big changes are the administrative stuff, the schedules and camps. That's taken a little bit to get used to."
Still, there's quite a bit of overhaul that Kirk will have to do on the field as well. One of the biggest hits came with the graduation of quarterback Brody Ulrey, who was one of the area's most accurate passers and did so for 2,099 yards and 33 touchdowns.
But with a handful of running backs, there's some talent that might help push Argenta in a new direction. Skyler Peterson, a junior, is back after picking up 637 yards and 7 touchdowns, as is junior Makhi Stanley, who broke out with 245 yards in Week 1.
Then there's sophomore Makail Stanley, who Kirk is high on as well.
"He's very talented," the Argenta coach said. "They compete with each other well, all three of them are very close in talent, they push each other as well. With having some competition, I think it's going to make everybody a little better."
Besides Ulrey, the passing attack replaces several receivers, and the defense will have several spots to replace as well. Upcoming 7 on 7s, like the one today in Warrensburg, are invaluable not only for the new coach, but for a new team as well.
"It comes down to reps for kids," Kirk said. "We're trying to get as many kids reps, and see where it takes us."
Readjusting in Sullivan
Not only has Andy Kerley picked up the reins for Sullivan, implemented his weight room regimen and started connecting with his team, he's also educating his players on classic Bill Murray movies.
After a practice day in the hot June sun, the former Cerro Gordo-Bement coach gathered his players to give his assessment.
"If I've been here for six years, that may not have been the best day," he told his team. "But it's baby steps, Bob.
"They looked at me like, what is wrong with you?"
Kerley, of course, was referencing the 1991 movie What About Bob?
But just like understanding his references to older movies, Kerley knows it may take some time for the Sullivan players to get used to a new coach after Gerald Temples was there three years.
"They understand it's going to take -- it's a transition," he said. "They're getting accustomed to me and what we're expecting."
And so far, Kerley said, it's going well. They're keeping the same offensive terminology but overhauling the defensive terms.
"It's been a process restarting," he said. "It's going well and for every day we have that isn't good, we usually come back with a really good one."
It's a young team, one that Kerley said has between half and two-thirds underclassmen. Perhaps by the time they're seniors, they can pick up the Bill Murray references with ease.