Last year was a tough season for the Leopards football team, ending with a record of 0-9, part of an overall 11-game losing streak.
Despite the discouraging record, many players have gained new hope in this year’s team, the key difference being the new offensive plays.
There has been a lot of buzz about the new beefed up offensive line, with players coming from top tier high schools.
“This year we have a better squad, there is better leadership, more disciplined players and greater ball control coming from the offensive line,” said senior wide receiver Cedric Ho.
Returning players are showing much support and appreciation for the new talent that the coaching staff has recruited.
“Going into camp this year was different; more people are serious about winning,” junior cornerback Ryan Baranek said.
More players are focused when it comes to practices, especially with the new and strict time schedules.
The team as a whole is not being lazy nor wasting time during practices; they are staying focused and are determined.
Players are doing more than just strength training and running plays.
The coaching staffs, as well as the team are putting in some serious time reviewing past game tapes.
Some players believe that last year’s offensive plays were not as balanced as this year’s; there were too many passing plays and not enough proficient running plays.
This year should be very different with the team’s new fullback and lead blockers.
“On the offensive line we’re running the ball more efficiently and our defensive line is really fast,” said sophomore running back Samuel Rhone.
It is not only the returning players that have a lot of drive.
The freshmen this year are also very dedicated to getting a win under the Leopard’s belt this season.
“The new incoming class is giving it all that they’ve got, putting in 100 percent effort, 100 percent of the time,” said freshmen wide receiver Jordan Parsons.
According to many of the players, there is more camaraderie between this year’s team than last year’s.
Even the returning players have noticed a difference in the level of team spirit with the presence of their new freshmen teammates.
This year players are focused on bettering the team as a whole, rather than creating a spotlight on certain individual players.
With better plays and more focused players, this Saturday’s game against the Azusa Pacific Cougars could end in a victory for the Leopards.
“It is going to be a tough one though,” said head coach Andrew Ankeny.
Coaches and players have reviewed APU’s defensive plays, and have found that not too much has changed from last year, but that doesn’t mean this game is going to be easy.
APU has already played and won a game, meaning they will be more confident and cutthroat, showing no mercy as they play the Leopards in their first game.
Ankeny said he has faith in his players.
“Our guys believe in who they are, and what they can do,” he said.
The first game of the season will be played at 6 p.m. Saturday at Citrus College.
With a record like last year’s, this year’s team has nowhere to go but up.
Christopher Barnes-Baxter can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.