SARAHSVILLE -Last season was a long one for first-year Shenandoah coach Kaleb Lawrence.
The coach described it in no uncertain terms as a "complete debacle."
The rookie coach was greeted by a plethora of problems, which ended in key veteran players being dismissed or leaving the team.
The end result was a tough 0-10 season, one in which a number of young players were asked to line up against seasoned opponents.
"We were a jayvee team playing against a varsity team every week," Lawrence said. "We took our lumps, that's for sure."
The Zeps were so young in spots that 12 freshmen earned varsity letters.
The good news is, it's a new season, and Lawrence expects a different result.
He has already seen it in the preseason.
"The biggest thing is the unity and the attitude of these kids," Lawrence said. "Last year we had a lot of problems and we got those sorted out. There is no negativity this season, the kids have all bought in to what we are doing and the way we are going to do things."
Obviously, there is reason to believe there is improvement in the future, and that starts with this season.
The Zeps will have to pick from a quartet of quarterbacks, one in each class. Senior Ryan Lovette, junior Jake Rossiter, sophomore Zak Biancarelli and freshman Dalton Cowgill will all get a look.
"Loveette is an all-around great athlete, we can play him an a lot of different positions," Lawrence said of the senior, who is listed as a receiver on the preseason roster. "Rossiter played a lot for us last year. He probably has the best arm and the most experience. Zak is quick and can throw and Dalton is a guy we are looking to groom for the future. If you have a senior at quarterback every year you probably aren't building a successful program."
Interestingly, the two younger players were the only ones listed as QBs on the preseason roster.
Shenandoah may not need much more than a guy to hand the ball off.
"Our strength is going to be running the football," Lawrence said. "We have some seniors anchoring the line and we have some young kids in there who played a lot last year. The light bulb has gone on for those kids."
One of the most impressive freshmen performers last season was running back Mike Vanfossen (5-10, 185).
He ran for 490 yards during the final five games of the season.
"He really stepped up," Lawrence said. "He never missed a day in the weight room and he's come back a lot stronger. I asked him if he expected to rush for 1,000 yards this year and he said, 'Yeah, and probably more.' "
David Freeman (5-9, 170), a junior tailback, Kyle Baker (5-10, 175), a junior transfer from Georgia and junior fullback Ethan McKee (6-2, 195) provide other options. Lovette also can play scatback if he doesn't start behind center.
Those players will be used in the passing game, as will senior tight end Dakota Hornak (6-2, 190) and senior receiver Trevor Winkleman (6-0, 150). Again. the multi-talented Lovette can move out to play some receiver as well.
As for the offensive line, Lawrence sees that as a definte strength, anchored up the middle by senior center Andy Hronec (5-8, 195) and guards Kalob Thompson (5-8, 180) and Devin Sills (5-8, 200).
Tackle Josh Copley, a 6-5, 250-pound junior, is also expected to be a force on one side of the line and Cody Crum (6-1, 220), who started as a sophomore, returns with experience at the other tackle spot.
Lawrence is assisted by Bob Bolyard, Jimmie Moore, Bob Werry, Bob Petelin, Brandon McKee and Josh Lowery.