The Randolph Raiders are coming off of a 6-5 season and three straight trips to the playoffs and as new head coach Blake Killen takes charge the goal is the same, they just want to do more damage during the holiday season.
"Our goal has always been to play in November but now we're tired of losing in the first round," returning starter at quarterback Graham Copeland said. "So our goal is to win and advance and keep winning until we make it to December so the goal hasn't changed but we really want to win, we don't want to just get there and lose."
The road back to the postseason won't be an easy one for the Raiders as they're tasked with replacing eight starters on both sides of the ball, but Killen says the cupboard is far from bare down on Drake road, especially on offense.
"We're replacing eight starters but we do get our quarterback back, we do get three guys that can really carry the ball back, we've got two starters back on the offensive line so really we're just trying to figure out who we can throw the ball to, who those weapons are going to be but as far as the run game, and quarterback being back, we kinda feel good about where we're at," Killen said.
A good place for the defensive minded coach to be as he looks to reload on the other side of the ball as well. Killen was the team's defensive coordinator from 2015 to 2017, helping that group give up just 17.9 points per game last season, the lowest total in his tenure as defensive coordinator.
“On that side of the ball we do have Chase Hammet who’s played a ton, Reed Thurman who’s played a ton, J.B. Stockton, Graham Copeland, all those guys return (as) starters on defense and we’re expecting big things out of (them)," Killen said.
While they lean on those guys to shoulder the load, there's no doubt they'll be looking for a handful of young guys to step up as the Aug. 31st opener fast approaches.
“We just gotta grow up fast," Killen said. "You know, we’re going to play some young kids that haven’t been out on the field a lot so over these next two weeks we really need to see them grow up fast and kind of learn what to do because pretty soon we’re going to throw them out there to the wolves.”