After a two-win season, the worst finish for Brookfield in the its players' lifetimes, second-year coach Scott Stevens believes the Bulldogs are prepared to reload behind a bolstered offense and similar personnel on defense.
"We're going to do a lot of the same stuff as we did last year, and in that second half of the season, we started to develop an identity with what we wanted to do," the Truman State alumnus said. "If you look at us, we have 10 returning starters on offense, and experience will be key. We've got a ton of work in in the weight room this offseason, and we'll definitely be looking for our big guys to create holes for us to run through."
Stevens thought his team was a little undersized up front last season, but he now feels that he has eight or nine guys who will be game-ready on an offensive line highlighted by star senior guard Brooks Baker.
Brookfield struggled to move the football last season, and scored seven or fewer points in half of its 10 games. The Bulldogs' biggest loss from last season's senior-thin team will be feature back and all-conference linebacker Khalil Walker.
After losing just six seniors from the 2017 squad, the Bulldogs carry 17 12th graders into their opening game at Palmyra.
Stevens looked forward to seeing what his defense will look like as a finished product.
"We've had a lot of competition on that defensive side and a lot of guys coming back from injury, so there are still a lot of spots being fought over," he said. "As a coach, you love that competition. We'll have to make sure we're pursuing all season, because there were times last year when we didn't do that so well."
The Bulldogs' special teams phase of the game will also largely be unchanged from a personnel standpoint. Garrett Starlin will return and has improved as a kicker, and quarterback Castor Dodd is still slated to punt, although Stevens said that freshman Bryson Collier has impressed and could realistically win either job.
Stevens said that Dodd has also come along nicely, both as the team's signal-caller as well as in the defensive secondary.
"We're really excited to play some other teams," Stevens said. "We feel like we've gotten stronger, and we've improved at things we weren't necessarily good at last year."
The Tigers open on the road in Palmyra on Friday evening. Palmyra is coming off of a 9-3 finish in 2017.