Dropping down a classification may not have benefited any one program more than the RCB Eagles. Byrd finally got back to its physical style of play, which is something that has given this year's players a reason to believe.
"This year is going to be more about hard work than natural talent. If we work hard and push ourselves, then there's nothing we can't do," RCB senior linebacker Hunter Mayer said.
"We're definitely hungry again," Eagles junior running back Ben D'Annunzio said. "We're hungry to get back to where we were at the end of the season last year. We need to reach that point again and be able to be in that position and make it to the state championship."
A state championship was a realistic goal last year. RCB was led by seniors Jermodd Garrett and Mason Compton, among others. It was a team that really had it all, but lost on the road…in the semifinals…against the eventual state champion…the Wayne Pioneers.
"You always miss a good senior class, and that was a real good senior class," Byrd Head Football Coach Bruce Carey said. "But that's part of high school ball. Every two to three years, they're gone. So we've got a new group of seniors and a new group of leaders. They're just going to have to pick up where the seniors were last year."
Among that new group includes a variety of first-time varsity football players. Colton Bonnett and Julian Malfregeot are athletes you typically see suiting up for the RCB basketball team. But no piece may be bigger to the Robert C. Byrd puzzle, than junior tailback Ben D'Annunzio.
"He still has the speed that he had last year," Carey said. "He's picked up a little bit of size and maybe a little bit of weight. He's just going to have to stay healthy. That's going to be the secret for him."
"All offseason I was doing things to improve my skills and get better. I went to a few college camps just to see where I stood out among players across the country. So I've been working."
Players say this year's team will need to work much harder to make their dreams a reality.
"I think we can make it back to where we were last year, if not further. As long as we work hard and put in the effort. Then the sky is the limit for us," D'Annunzio said.