"We hadn't been in the playoffs in a while, so making the playoffs was proof that it could be done. It established a belief in us and what we are doing," said Spartans Coach Dan Yoder, who is gearing up for his second year as head coach. "Now that we've proven we can do it, we're looking to prove we can do something with it."
The team will have to try and leave a mark in the playoffs without two pillars of last year's offense, quarterback Rocky Moore and wide receiver Josh Hanson. Moore finished the season with 21 passing touchdowns and a quarterback rating of 105. Hanson was Moore's favorite target with 31 receptions for 800 yards and seven touchdowns.
"We're going to have to find a way to replace 2,000 yards of offense, and we're going to have to do that on the ground," Yoder said.
Junior Scott Gray is the favorite to replace Moore. He realizes he has big shoes to fill, but is looking to do so in a different way, hoping to make more plays with his legs than his arm.
"It's about efficiency. I know Rocky [Moore] was a great passer. He was bigger and taller than I am. I have to work on a lot of fundamentals," said Gray, who has been working a lot on his footwork this off-season. "Footwork is key. The better your footwork, the faster you can get the ball out."
Fundamentals are something being stressed, from the coaches to the players.
"Looking at film from last year, we saw that a lot of little mistakes were made, and that makes a difference in a lot of plays," said junior Daleep Sandhu, last season's leading rusher, averaging 66.8 yards a game on 14.3 carries. "I'm working a lot on footwork, getting my knees up and just going that extra second on a play."
The team hopes all this preparation will help it achieve its goal of beating Monrovia and winning the league title.
"It's not a matter of want, it's a matter of need," said junior Nate Eisenberg, the team's center and one of its linebackers. "I truly think we can beat any team in this league based off of our work ethic and coaching staff, but if we want to go far, we are going to have to work really hard on beating Monrovia."