Don’t tell the Merritt Island Mustangs football team about graduation costing the team.
“They know we’ve got work to do,” head coach Jeff McLean said Tuesday. “They’ve taken it as a challenge to get better in the offseason.”
Seven senior starters led a tough Mustangs defense last year on the way to the Class 5A, District 13 Championship. They will have to be replaced.
“Someone seems to always step up,” McLean said. “Merritt Island kids have the attitude that if you work hard and you train hard, good things will happen.”
The Bears went through a 4-6 campaign last season after back-to-back regional final seasons. In addition to the loss of key offensive stars from 2010, a tough schedule aided in the dropoff.
Head coach Derek Smith expects that to pay off now.
“Every game’s a week-by-week situation and all we can do is get better, and that’s the reason why we played last year’s schedule is to get better.”
Panthers coach Ajay Ulmer said the building of the program should pay dividends in 2012.
“I think the attitude is real good. Our kids expect to go out and be able to compete and win in every game,” he said. “We’re going to put ourselves in a position where our confidence level and our execution level’s to where we feel we can go out on any given Friday and win.”
The Scorpions will look to bounce back from a disappointing 2011. They hope to capitalize on the experience gained in close games.
“We lost four games by a touchdown in the fourth quarter,” coach Andrew Disney said. “I think we’re doing the things we need to do to develop a program here.”
There were nearly 80 Vipers in uniform during spring practice, and 60 have turned out this week. Head coach Kevin Freeman said a push toward the playoffs following a slow start to the 2011 season has created a positive attitude.
“I think what it did was show the kids that we’re not far off,” he said. “I think the kids are more excited now and playing a lot harder now.”