The Green Bay Preble football team would love nothing more than to get off to the same quick start this season that it did in 2014, when it won five of its first six games.
Now, it just needs to finish stronger.
The Hornets dropped their last four games, getting outscored 84-10, and were eliminated by Hudson in the WIAA Division 1 playoffs.
That kind of ending has a way of serving as motivation during a long offseason.
“I think you have got to use stuff like that as motivation,” Preble coach Tim Larsen said. “If that doesn’t leave a sour taste in your mouth, well then there is probably something to be said for that.
“The past is the past, but you have to learn from it, too.”
Preble has a chance for some success in the Fox River Classic Conference and to make the postseason for the fifth straight year, which would be a program record.
But it will be tested right out of the gate, with a Week 1 game against defending conference champion Bay Port and a Week 2 showdown at Ashwaubenon, which finished in a tie for second.
It’s probably not the best schedule to start with for a team hoping to forget about last year’s season-ending slump, but it will give the Hornets a chance to see where they stack up against two of the best.
“We are excited about it,” senior quarterback Dylan Van Boxel said. “I mean, we will play anybody, anytime, anywhere. We are getting ready. We don’t look at any opponent differently. Bay Port is the first opponent. We don’t even look past that right now.
“It’s the first game, and we will go from there.”
The Hornets have a solid cast of offensive players returning, including Van Boxel and senior tight end Nathan Prevost.
Van Boxel is coming off a season in which he threw for 859 yards in league play while throwing 11 touchdowns and just three interceptions. He is in a camp battle with junior Coy Wanner, who returned this season bulked up after earning playing time toward the end of last year.
“I think it’s fairest to the team to try to put the 11 guys who are going to give us the best chance to perform well,” Larsen said. “We say it’s an open competition at every spot, it doesn’t matter if you’re a senior or a sophomore coming up.
“If you’re the guy, then you’re the guy.”
Whoever gets the job, they have an inviting target to throw to in the 6-foot-2, 215-pound Prevost.
He was a second-team all-conference selection as a junior after catching 32 passes for 474 yards and three TDs in league play.
The Hornets also have 5-9, 210-pound senior back Michael Reignier, who should help give them some balance.
“I think our offensive line is going to be a lot more experienced this year,” Van Boxel said. “We have a couple guys back on the offensive line, and we have got a lot of skill players back. That is going to help a lot.”
Preble lost some impact talent on a defense that was the stingiest against the run in the FRCC and allowed the second-fewest yards overall, but it brings back an important piece in junior defensive back Ethan VandenPlas.
VandenPlas was a big reason the team led the FRCC with 18 interceptions in 2014, finishing second in the league with six picks that he returned for a conference-high 175 yards.
“They have got a lot of veteran leadership. Even though we lost a lot of guys, we still have some good leaders on that side of the ball,” Larsen said. “They are a physical group. It’s kind of been a tradition that Preble defense is going to fly around and be physical. I tip my hat to (defensive coordinator) coach (Dustin) Gresen and all those guys.”
— email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @scottvenci.
Green Bay Preble at a glance
Coach: Tim Larsen, second year.
2014 record: 5-5.
Aug. 21 — Bay Port
Aug. 28 — at Ashwaubenon
Sept. 4 — Manitowoc
Sept. 11 — at G.B. Southwest
Sept. 18 — De Pere
Sept. 25 — at Sheboygan South
Oct. 2 — at Sheboygan North
Oct. 9 — G.B. Notre Dame
Oct. 16 — Pulaski