When Midland Valley takes the field week one, the uniforms and colors will look familiar. The players? Not so much.
The Mustangs have undergone a complete overhaul of their roster this season, and it wasn't by choice. The team lost 18 starters to graduation, and will need a new group to jell together if it wants to continue its run of four straight playoff berths.
The problem with losing so many starters isn't just the loss of talent. It can be just as difficult to make up for the loss of experience and leadership, especially in a world where patience is not necessarily a valued virtue.
Head Coach Rick Knight says, "I don't know if it's possible, but we're going to have to be more patient. We have some strengths in offensive line, but everything else is up for grabs.
The coaches aren't the only ones thinking about leadership, though. Older players know that, even though they've been pushed into the leader role, they need to embrace it if the team will have success this season.
Junior Quarterback Cole Cromer says, "I believe everybody needs to step up just because everybody was leaving, so we just need more hard work and preparation for the upcoming season."
Senior Tevin Nuckles added, "There were a bunch of seniors here last year that gave me direction, and I think that's going to make me a better leader."
And, one of the four returning starters, Evan Williams, says, "Teaching them technique and how to do their job, and just to never ever give up and never stop will be important."
The Mustangs have gone to the second round of the playoffs two straight years. They haven't missed out on a playoff berth since 2005.