The Salem Spartans are fresh off a 12-1 season that ended with a state semifinal loss to Heritage.
But the Virginia High School League's new classification system and playoff format have made things much more difficult for the Spartans to go on a lengthy postseason run.
Still, Stephen Magenbauer likes his team's early-season chemistry as he begins his tenth season at Salem.
“You know you can tell in the off-season,” Magenbauer said. “If you have a good off-season program, you can get some leadership going. Then normally if you don't go undefeated and win the state championship, you're going to have a good year and you're going to have a fun year. And I think we're going to have a real fun year as far as coaching these kids and I think we have a chance to be pretty good.”
Senior running back Devante Payne said: “We have to finish. No matter what. Even in tough times. You're going to have tough times, times where you miss plays and have times where you're down, but that's just how the game goes. But you have to learn how to fight through the end and push through everything.”
Salem has some big shoes to fill this August. Quarterback Matt Hill graduated and other players have assumed leadership roles including lineman Alex Light. And the Spartans have plenty of players with in-game experience that can step up.
“Losing Matt who was a two-year starter who was an excellent quarterback is always a challenge to fill in, but I think we have a lot of kids who have played a lot of minutes for us. A number of seniors have started since they were sophomores,” Magenbauer said. “You know Alex Light should be a great player for us. Zach Hill and a number of those other senior leaders, so I think we feel confident as far as that goes.”