The Panthers went 6-5 last season and return star senior running back Austin Kopp, who rushed for over 2,000 yards and 31 touchdowns in 2015.
“(I) have to keep the mentality to always strive to get better,” said Kopp, the C-J’s reigning Southern Indiana Football Player of the Year.
The Panthers scored 365 points last year, while allowing 284.
“We’re going to be very aggressive (on defense),” second-year coach Andrew Smith said.
Corydon is coming off a fourth-place finish in the Mid-Southern Conference.
“Every year you strive to win a conference title. We’ve only won two in our history,” Smith said. “I think our potential is there.”
The Panthers open the season Aug. 19 at Southridge.
The Cubs are coming off an 0-10 campaign. Madison’s first three losses last season, however, were by one, two and six points.
“Last year we were in a lot of close ball games, we just didn’t have the mental toughness to close those ball games,” fourth-year coach Patric Morrison said.
“I think we can do a lot better this year,” senior running back/safety Gabe Stoll said.
“I think that we are going to be a better all-around team this year,” said junior linebacker Carson Howser.
The Cubs say they have worked very hard in the offseason, especially in the weight room.
Morrison says he hopes to throw the ball a little more this season so his team’s offensive attack is not so one-dimensional. The competition for the starting QB spot is still on-going, Morrison said.
“I think our defense is really going to step up this year,” Stoll said.
The Cubs open the season Aug. 19, when they host Charlestown.
The Rams went 3-8 last season. They lost their first six games, but rebounded to win three of their final five. Paoli beat Cascade 53-18 in the sectional before its season ended with a 40-32 loss at North Putnam.
“From the first week to the last week we got a ton better,” junior quarterback Garrett Vincent said. “We have to keep improving, getting better every week.”
“We definitely ended on an upswing,” coach Brian Balsmeyer said. “But we’ve still got to mature mentally and physically.”
At the end of last season Balsmeyer said his 22 starting positions were made up of five juniors or seniors and 17 freshmen or sophomores.
“We want to have a deep run in the players and in order to do that we have to put ourselves in difficult situations,” said Balsmeyer, who is beginning his 11th season at the helm of the program.
“The big thing with this group is having a consistent effort,” Balsmeyer said.
One of the key players for Paoli this season will be senior offensive/defensive lineman Tyson Whaley, who is listed at 6-foot-1, 256 pounds.
“He’s got a future beyond high school football,” Balsmeyer said.
He’ll be counted on to lead the team on, and off, the field, according to Balsmeyer.
“I think I do need to step up to give them someone to follow,” Whaley said.
Paoli will once again play a 4-3 defense. The Rams open their season Aug. 19, when they host Brownstown Central.
The Warriors went 2-4 last season in only their second year since the school revived the sport after a 31-year hiatus. According to coach Kyle Mullins, the school literally didn’t have a football when the program restarted.
Scottsburg’s two varsity wins last year were a 52-26 triumph over Rock Creek Academy and a 41-40 overtime victory over Switzerland County.
“We’ve had a lot of bright spots in the last two years and we’re looking forward to taking the next step,” Mullins said. “Each day is an opportunity and I think they’re getting that.”
“It has been a long journey,” junior running back/defensive back Hunter Myers said.
“We’ve come a long way since our freshman year, we just have to keep it going,” junior quarterback Skylar Combs said.
The Warriors, who will be eligible for postseason play next year, are a junior-laden team.
Mullins said that “size is not a problem” on the offensive line, but it’s just a matter of “getting those big guys to move.”
Mullins said he wants his team to be more physical this year. The Warriors open their season Aug. 19 at Salem.
“We’re just looking to take the next step and be a respected football program,” Mullins said.
The Bulldogs went 4-6 last year, which was a three-win improvement from 2014. Their season ended with a heartbreaking 35-34 loss to archrival Jeffersonville in the sectional.
“We made a ton of progress (last year),” second-year coach Sean Coultis said.
New Albany had two single-digit losses last season and also lost two other games by 12 and 16 points.
“Those close games we had last year, we should be able to win this year,” sophomore quarterback Dylan Clark said.
Clark started the final two games of last season, completing 17 of 26 passes for 214 yards and two TDs. He’ll start the season under center this year.
Two other key returnees from last season are junior running back Darquan Richardson and junior defensive end Koby Anderson. Richardson ran for 961 yards and six TDs last year. Anderson, meanwhile, will anchor the D.
Coultis has high expectations for his team. The Bulldogs open their season Aug. 19 at Providence.
The Pirates went 8-3 last season, which ended with a 44-19 loss to Brownstown Central in the sectional semifinals.
“Overall it was a pretty successful season,” said coach Jason Hawkins, head coach at Charlestown.
The Pirates return their skill-position starters (including senior RB Antonyo Gaddie and QB Brendan Lawler), but must replace everyone on the offensive line.
On the flip side, Charlestown returns seven starters on D. The Pirates’ biggest competition in the sectional and the conference will be Brownstown Central, which won both last year.
“We’re looking up at Brownstown right now,” Hawkins said.
The Pirates open their season Aug. 19 at Madison.
“Every year we expect to be good,” Hawkins said. “Our goal, pretty much every year, is to win a trophy, win a conference or a sectional.”
The Generals are coming off an 0-10 season, which ended with a 15-0 loss to Pekin Eastern in the sectional.
“So far I see a lot of potential,” first-year coach Joby Turner said.
“We just want to be better, better than last year,” senior tight end/linebacker Austin Cohen said.
“Coach Turner came in with high expectations,” junior Seth Hamilton said. “We’re pushing ourselves to have a good season.”
The Generals will be led on offense by quarterback/wide receiver Bishop Hughes and junior running back DaShawn Baker.
“We’re going to try to be balanced (on offense),” Turner said.
Baker said the team’s offensive line is improving. Meanwhile the players agree that the team will be more disciplined this season.
The Generals open their season Aug. 19 against Indianapolis Arlington.
“It’s going to be important to get off to a good start, both offensively and defensively,” Turner said. “The main thing this year is just making sure we’re competitive every game.”
The Highlanders are coming off a 4-6 season that ended with a 17-0 loss to Bedford North Lawrence in the sectional. Floyd Central started last year 4-1, but lost its final five games.
“We ran into some very good teams at the end of the season. The kids aren’t very happy with a 4-6 record, that’s not up to our expectations,” coach Brian Glesing said. “The team has really dedicated themselves in the offseason.”
Glesing says his team will be lacking in size this year. He said the only player on his roster who may weigh more than 250 pounds is senior defensive lineman Donovan Hickman, who is 5-10, 268 pounds.
The Highlanders return a plethora of starters on both sides of the ball, especially up front.
Glesing said his team’s offensive line, led by senior center Jimmy Quenichet, will be one of the strengths of the team. The O-line will be counted on to open up holes for what Glesing describes as “a stable of running backs.”
“I’m going to get back to doing what we do best, and that’s run the football,” Glesing said.
Glesing said the D-line, led by Hickman (who earned first-team All-Hoosier Hills Conference honors last season) and junior Brandon Striegel, will be very strong as well.
The Highlanders, however, will be inexperienced in the secondary, according to Glesing.
The Highlanders open the season Aug. 19, when they host Louisville Male, the defending state champion in Kentucky’s largest classification.
“I think we’ll have a very good season,” Hickman said. “I don’t think any team is going to intimidate us.”
The Red Devils went 6-5 last year, which ended with a 56-6 loss to Center Grove in the sectional.
“I thought last year was a success, just by the way things played out last year,” second-year coach Alfonzo Browning said. “This year expectations are very high. We’re getting kind of tired of losing in the sectional championship.”
Senior quarterback Cameron Northern will be counted on to lead not only the offense, but the whole team. However Northern, who passed for 1,908 yards and 14 TDs last season, lost all of his wide receivers and tight ends from last season.
Also returning to the Red Devils’ backfield will be senior running back Jordan Barnett, who rushed for 1,269 yards and 12 touchdowns last year.
“Defensively is where we’ve got to get better,” Browning said.
Other key returnees this season are four seniors: Morquis White, T.J. Love, Dayna Overton and Ian Francisco.
Browning said the team is trying to bulk up its schedule and play more Indianapolis schools. He said Providence will be replaced by Cathedral on next year’s schedule.
Jeff opens its season Aug. 19 at Pulaski (Ky.) vs. Southwestern.
“The goal for this team, first and foremost, is to win the conference,” Browning said. “Second is to win the sectional, third is to win the regional and fourth is to win state. We dream big.”
The Dragons are coming off a 6-5 season that ended with a 40-21 loss to Seymour in the sectional.
“I think 6-5, it was the best season in Silver Creek history, so we were pleased with that, but I think we left a couple of games on the table,” second-year coach John Dablow
Dablow expects the team to keep improving this year with the return of 17 of 22 starters.
“A conference championship is kind of expected this year,” senior Josh Thompson said.
The Dragons ran for 3,000 yards last year and Dablow said he expects his team to match that this season. The coach also hopes to bring a little bit more balance to the offense.
The Dragons open their season Aug. 19, when they host Seymour.
“We’ve definitely got to go better than 6-5 (this season), (and) set the foundation for Silver Creek football,” Dablow said.
The Senators are coming off an 11-1 season, which ended with a 35-13 loss to Linton-Stockton in the regional.
“We hope to build off that season,” 10th-year coach Phillip Bowsman said. “We want to take that season and propel us into this season.”
Bowsman said his team returns “about six or seven” starters on each side of the ball. Leading the way will be three seniors: Landon McPheeters, Michael Sizemore and Jackson Byrne.
McPheeters, a running back who said he’s gotten stronger and faster in the offseason, was a Class A first-team all-state selection by the Associated Press last season. Sizemore is back to play QB while Byrne, an offensive lineman, was an AP all-state honorable mention choice last season.
“We’re going to pride ourselves on physicality and speed on the defensive side,” Bowsman said. “Our defense is what made our offense look so good last year.”
The Senators open their season Aug. 19, when they host Pekin Eastern.
“Our expectations for this season are very high,” Bowsman said.
The Musketeers went 3-8 last season, which ended with a 41-14 loss to North Posey in the sectional.
“We’re looking to build on that this year,” said second-year coach Luke Dean.
The Musketeers have gotten stronger, faster and bigger in the offseason, according to Dean.
“I think up front is going to be key for us,” Dean said.
The Musketeers return several key seniors, including running back Blake Feller and strong safety Brant Stewart. They open their season Aug. 19 at West Washington.
“I think we could be that team that surprises some people this year,” Dean said.