When you are coming off an outstanding season that ended with District 11 Class 2A silver medals and you return a 2,000-yard rusher things might seem to look pretty rosy.
That's the case at Northern Lehigh this season as Head Coach Joe Tout welcomes TIMES NEWS Player of the Year Cody Remaley and Patriot League recruit back as well as some good skill players in Matt Gill and Jake Kern to build a team around that should contend for the Colonial League title and get another shot at district gold.
"We're happy with our development that we made from last year to this year," said Tout, who enters his fifth season at the helm. "We're happy with our senior leadership. We feel we still have a strong senior class so there are a lot of positives. We're pretty optimistic."
Remaley, who is already the school's all-time leading rusher, carried the brunt of the offensive load behind a solid offensive line that graduated this past June. This time around, Tout hopes to spread the wealth around a bit with Gill and Kern, who he calls a great all-around athlete, getting more looks.
"Last year our strength offensively was going double tight end, the strength of our offensive line, a fullback who was coming off an injury that could still block very well in Gill and Cody at tailback," said Tout. "This year, we think our strength is going to be getting the ball to different guys.
"I'm happy with our offensive line right now. They're further ahead than I expected them to be. Obviously we've lost the linemen from last year, but we have two kids on that line in Carl Sahlberg, Daniel Ruth who both rotated in last year to get game experience."
Offensively, Tout looks to Remaley, Gill and Kern as his offensive weapons.
"Matt Gill is healthy this year and is 100 percent," Tout noted. "We have to make an effort to get him the ball. Jake Kern, you get him the ball in open space and he's going to make big plays for you so he's going to see it more. And then there is Cody, with going out for track last year, is faster and stronger than he's ever been.
"Wide receiver Caleb Johnson, who is only going to be a sophomore, can jump out of the roof. We just think we have a lot of kids on offense this year that can make plays."
Despite losing a good tight end in Joey Seremula, Mike Buresh, at 6-3, 250, is back and is a Division I recruit with Princeton and Penn looking at him. Johnson will play split end and at times line up as a double tight end.
Nick Heyer, a player who didn't come out the past two years, is back out as a senior and Tout will use him as the I-back when the Bulldogs run out of the Power I.
At quarterback, Dylan Hoffman is the starter, but Tout has put Kern there at times just to get the ball in his hands more.
"Dylan has done a real good job passing-wise," the head coach said. "He's a little ahead of Jake throwing the ball right now. We're still going with the option and both have to get better at that."
Kern is the flanker, but don't be surprised to see him everywhere. Two juniors, Trevor Yashur and David Getz are fighting to be part of the receiving corp as well.
Defensively, Tout calls Gill, at inside linebacker and Kern, at free safety as the two cornerstones. This will be the third year the two are starting at those positions.
Kirk Bender, a junior who started all 13 games last year, will be the other inside linebacker and Hoffman, who also started all 13 games, returns at corner back. Yashur and Getz will share the other corner.
"We think our linebackers and secondary is really strong," said Tout. "Our team speed is pretty impressive."
Remaley and Johnson will see time at outside linebacker and Heyer will also see action.
Right now, the Bulldogs are trying to find some answers up front. Buresh is back at defensive end. Andrew Staskowski and Kyle Chaump man the defensive tackle spots. Kyle Greenawalt should be the other defensive end.
Kern will handle the punting chores and Remaley will do the kicking off. Channing Shiffert, a soccer player, is also out.
"I think there is a lot of balance in our league so I hate to single one team out," said Tout. "You can't look past anyone. Obviously Wilson is the team to beat until someone knocks them off.
"We never set goals for ourselves. We just go game by game. We don't like losing seasons and last year that was our emphasis."
The Bulldogs just look to get better every game and if they do, they know they'll be around when the post-season comes.