WATERFORD - The Waterford High football team can feel the season creeping up, and it is very much welcomed.
"Everybody's ready," said Waterford head coach Tom Tucker during the team's helmet fitting day Monday. "It's been a long offseason."
In spite of the departure of several key players from last season, there is plenty of room for optimism for the green and white.
"We've got some low numbers, but the kids have worked really hard," Tucker said. "We've got some good kids coming back. We lost nine seniors. It will be hard to replace them, but I'm no different than any other head coach. You lose seniors every year."
One of those key returning players will be senior Austin Lang. Lang, a running back, has big shoes to fill with the graduation of All-Southeast District performer Hunter Munjas, but is looking forward to the challenge.
"We'll have play-makers," Lang said.
"We just want to go out and win as many games as possible."
Lang and lineman Nick Gardner will be the lone two seniors on the squad, which will allow for a lot of underclassmen to get a chance to step up and contribute on the varsity squad. Lang believes the performance of those underclassmen will be key.
"We have a lot of freshmen," Lang said. "We're gonna have a lot of freshmen step up and play."
Waterford dealt with injury after injury a season ago, which led to a lot of younger players being thrown into the fire right away. That experience should prove valuable this fall.
If the Wildcats can stay healthy, they stand a very good chance of improving on their 2-8 record from a year ago. They have the players to do it, Tucker said.
"We've got a good bunch of kids and they're all working hard," the coach said. "We won't be near as big as we were last year, but we're probably a little quicker."
The 'Cats have a tough slate in front of them. While their first three games of the season are at home, two of those contests will be against Federal Hocking and Fort Frye, winners of six and eight games, respectively, last season.
In weeks four and five, Waterford travels to Wahama, unbeaten a year ago, and then hosts Trimble, which went 9-1 in 2012.
After two games on the road, Waterford wraps up at home against South Gallia and then on the road against a much-improved Belpre team.
As tough as things may look, don't expect it to phase the Wildcats.
"Every year we think we can beat anybody we play," said Lang.