The Linton-Stockton Miners' football team did everything possible last regular season to position themselves for a long postseason run.
They finished 9-0 in the regular season and won the first Southwest 7 title in the history of the newly formed conference.
But, after a first round loss to then undefeated Perry Central at home, the Miners will have to retune their offense to compensate for the loss of the bulk of their firepower from a year ago.
Linton coach Steve Weber, who is set to kick off his seventh season as coach of the Miners, knew he was going to have to replace most of his offense. But he didn't expect to have to deal with the unusually low number of players this season.
The Miners participated in a team camp last week and the numbers were not what coach Weber was expecting.
"It was pretty much what we expected, but the numbers were down," said Weber. "We went from about 63 kids last year to right around 50 this year. For some reason, a lot of the kids didn't come back out. We've had some great years, but we've had a lot of kids not come out this year.
"The stragglers have already come in. We're counting on about 50 kids unless we can do a little recruiting. With kids these days, you never know."
What the Miners will now rest their hopes on for a successful season are mostly proven junior varsity players. But Weber is quick to point out that there's a big difference between JV and the varsity level.
"We graduated 13 seniors and most have been 2-way starters for four years," said Weber. "For most of these kids, this is their first real shot at being a varsity starter. You have to go back and make sure they know the basic stuff.
"It's been huge for us to try some different things and work on some things we've not done. We've been in the same offense for about seven years, and now changing it a little bit, it's valuable for us to learn some rules and other things like that.
"It's also big for the coaches to learn who can play where. We've really not figured that out yet. Perhaps the best thing I can see is to get used to the heat. We're in the pads and it's a more relaxed atmosphere. It's a lot more relaxed then when we'll have 2-a-days."
Coach Weber said the need to change offensive schemes was due to the different talent level that the incoming players possess. He says that it is crucial for a coach and a program to be willing to find the system that most suits the players in the program.
"At the high school level you've got to be willing to change and do different things," Weber noted. "You have to make the system fit the kids. You can't make the kids fit the system. That's what we're trying to do right now. We're trying to put the offense in that we think fits our kids. This is it. It's going to be interesting to see it play out this year."
The camp is used to hopefully educate younger players of basic instructions and techniques. Coach Weber and his staff is hopeful that once the start of practice begins on July 31, the players won't need to spend valuable time rehashing basic plays.
"It's because of the youth," said Weber of the back to basics mentality to camp. "A lot of our kids, although good players, haven't had the opportunity to play a whole lot. They did when we got up on teams.
"They're auditioning for us. They're trying to earn their spots. This is big. We don't know what to expect. It's pretty much totally open. We're looking at seeing who can play well.
Out of everything that he hopes is sinking into the players, he hopes that they see the difference between off-season workouts, and just showing up when practice begins.
"The main thing I hope they've taken away is that if you look you can see a slit from the kids who have been working and the kids who haven't," said Weber. "Hopefully they take away from camp that it is important to get yourself ready with workouts and running and lifting. That pays off. Those kids when they come to camp handle the heat better and the running better. The coaches can see they move better. Hopefully the kids take that away that's important to do."
The Miners will compete in a controlled scrimmage on August 11 at Cloverdale before opening the 2006 season against Eastern Greene in the annual Greene County showdown for the Greene County football trophy, currently housed at Linton, on August 18.
The game will be a home contest for Eastern Greene, but because they do not have a home field and will not be allowed to play at Jackson Creek Middle School like the previous seasons, the game will be played in Owen County at Owen Valley High School.