The William Monroe High School football team made the playoffs for the first time in 20 years last season.
But Monroe graduated a huge senior class.
The Greene Dragons hope to reload and not rebuild in 2012.
William Monroe won seven games in its first year in the Bull Run District in Mark Sanford's third year as head coach of the Greene Dragons.
"We want to be a perennial playoff team," said Sanford. "That's one of the goals we stated when we got here. Hopefully the kids are starting to see some of the fruits of the labor that they're putting in in the off-season, et cetera. As we tell the kids all the time, everybody wants to swing the towel on ESPN but very few want to put in the work that goes into that. Hopefully the kids are starting to understand what it takes to reach that level."
"It's always nice having that 11th game," said William Monroe senior Dakwan Morris. "I think we should make it an every year thing. You want it so bad that you just eat, sleep, live it, breathe it."
"That was a chance my brother never had to do," WMHS junior quarterback/defensive back Jack Morris. "It was a great experience. It was different for me."
But Monroe graduated 14 seniors and must replace nine starters on offense and defense.
"I don't think I can recall having that much of a cleaning house so to speak," said Sanford. "It's going to be a challenge."
"It's a big difference, because we've got a lot of new guys, first year playing varsity," said Dakwan Morris. "Having a great season last year and all those good guys being gone, so it's a big difference. They were role models to me, because they were those guys that could make a play anytime during the game. I always looked up to those guys."
"It's definitely different," said Jack Morris. "We're a lot smaller, but if we know our stuff, we can play with the best of 'em."
"The good news from that is we got a lot of good, young kids who have great opportunities that they wouldn't normally have," said Sanford. "We've got some kids that in a normal situation, if you will, would be playing JV for another year that we're just going to have to rely on to step up and fill the void."
Jack Morris is back for his second year as starting quarterback to lead an inexperienced team.
"Coming off a good sophomore year, so we're hoping to build on that," said Sanford. "He's shown good leadership in camp right now."
"I'm almost stepping into the spotlight of the seniors last year, so hopefully I can lead them as well as they did us," said Jack Morris.
With the graduations of playmakers like Doug Sizemore (over 1,700 yards and over 20 touchdowns in 2011), Jordan Gentry (honorable mention all-region defensive back, first-team all-district wide receiver and DB, and second-team all-district kick returner), Zach Duprey (first-team all-region and all-district tight end and second-team all-district defensive end), and Adam Weisenborn (second-team all-district wide receiver), players like senior wide receiver and running back Dakwan Morris and sophomore running back Cody Perkins will be called on to produce this season.
Making the playoffs last year, and the accomplishment of another Monroe team, drives the Greene Dragons.
"We just had a state championship in baseball, so hopefully we can bring one home for football," said Jack Morris. "It was a great experience. It felt very well. I'd like to have it happen again."
"If they can do it, I know that we can do it," said Dakwan Morris.
"What Mike Maynard did with the baseball program, that can only help to develop that mentality," said Sanford. "We got some of those baseball guys out here. That's very helpful, because once you win a championship, you learn not only the euphoria of winning a championship but also what it takes to get there, and that's a big piece of the puzzle. That's probably the biggest piece, actually figuring it out."
Monroe hosts Nelson County August 24 at 7:30 to open the season.
William Monroe also graduated defensive leaders Stacey White (second-team all-region and first-team all-district defensive lineman), Devin Frederick (honorable mention all-region and first-team all-district linebacker), and Jacob Hirtz (second-team all-district defensive back). White also earned honorable mention all-region offensive line.
The Greene Dragons have eight seniors on this year's team, but this is the first year of high school football for five of them.
Besides Dakwan Morris, only defensive lineman Ronald Rogers played a big role last season.
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