Elkins High School comes into the 2013 season searching for its third straight trip to the post season. Last year the Tigers rushed out to a 5-0 start, before finishing 2-4, and ultimately losing in its first round playoff game.
A repeat trip to the playoffs won't be easy, especially for a team who must replace a pair of 1,000 yard rushers.
"Line wise, we're smarter, and can do a lot more than we could last year," said senior Michael Beckwith. "Back wise, trying to fill in some big spots. We lost Clayton Collett and L.J. Lawrence, two of the best backs in West Virginia."
Last year, Collett and Lawrence carried the ball for nearly 3,000 yards and 30 combined touchdowns. Literally carrying the workload of the offense.
"One day in practice this week, one of the coaches asked, 'how many of you have gained a yard rushing in a varsity game?' nobody could raise their hand," said head coach Greg Hott. "As far as the line is concerned we have most everyone back. So that's a real strength for us."
The big uglies will indeed be crucial for the Tigers if they want to succeed on the ground. Long drives of dominance in the trenches could be tough on opposing teams.
"We may not have those 70, 80, 90 yard touchdowns this season, we may be more of a ball control team this season and get 4, 5, 6 a carry," said Hott. "Maybe 12, 13 play drives. Rarely last year did we have drives that long. That's the biggest change I think you'll see."
On the defensive side of the ball the Tigers are working on a new scheme, hoping to make that the final straw that could give Elkins it's first postseason victory.
"The first time in school history, you can't beat that," said Beckwith. "If we can win just one, we can hopefully carry it all the way to the championship."
Elkins opens the year against at home against Oak Hill August 30.
Click here for a full high school football schedule.