Francis Scott Key football coach Mike Coons will be the first to tell you this is a "crucial" year for his Eagle program.
"Not necessarily on the field," Coons said. "It's all about attitude. The kids have to hang together and decide this is what they want to do and that it (football) is important to them. We're not rebuilding -- we're building."
Construction won't happen overnight. A year ago, the Eagles finished the season without a win -- 0-10. Coons knows he is building fromthe ground up.
"We're trying to find football players," he said. "We want more kids involved in the program for four years, starting as freshmen. We want to get to the point where we have 20 seniors going out and 20 juniors behind them. At that point, the wins will come."
The Eagles don't have 20 seniors and 20 juniors to back them up this year, but Coons is pleased with what he has seen so far in practice.
"Practice has gone well so far; the kids have picked up thingsreal well mentally," he said, "I'm pleased with the work they've putin."
There are some questions still unanswered from this relatively young group.
"Execution-wise, we're still not quite where we want to be," he added. "I would also like to see a little more intensity and excitement out of them on the field. I'd like to see them flying around and making noise and helping each other up. These kids are the quietest bunch we've had. They may just be low-key."
This year,the Eagles aren't looking to fool anybody offensively. With last year's quarterback, Jason Nunnelee, gone to graduation, Coons plans to use the running game much more this season.
Senior Norman Jones, who played offensive tackle a year ago, has been converted to the fullback spot and will carry much of the load. Coons also has a trio of newcomers in the backfield.
"We may line up in the 'I' and just run right at people. Norman Jones has looked good at fullback, having never played the position before, and we have a 10th-grader, Mario Lagunas, who has looked strong at running back," Coons said.
Two other sophomores -- Jason McCarley and Josh Crone -- may also get the opportunity to run behind an experienced offensive line.
The line will be anchored by senior center Clint Cromwell and junior guards BrandonHurst and Dale Bloom, along with junior tackle Chris Taylor -- all of whom have varsity experience.
When they do decide to throw the ball, chances are it will be sophomore Matt Haines doing the tossing.
"We won't make a living of throwing the ball deep," Coons said. "We plan to possession-pass and cut down the routes."
Senior wide receiver Scott Everly will be the main target. A year ago, he caught 13passes for 194 yards (nearly 15 yards per catch) with two touchdowns. The Eagles also will look to go short to senior end Pat Bosley.
Coons is happy with the progress the first team defense has made but is concerned about a lack of depth and experience.
"We'll go with a 4-4 defense. I like the looks of our first defensive group, but theyounger kids still look a little tentative. It will come; it just takes time," he said.
The defense will be centered around of a pair of returning linebackers -- senior Brandon Brilhart and Jones.
Cromwell will key the defensive line, while Bosley and junior Doug Murphwill take charge of a young secondary.
"These kids need to win," Coons said. "They've learned all they can from losing. We have to find ourselves. The coaching staff believes in these kids, and we feel there is a good football team. It's just a matter of them believing inthemselves."