After a pair of disappointing seasons, Brookfield head coach Scott Stevens believes that his third go-around is poised to be a memorable one.
The Bulldogs found themselves in close games throughout the season in 2018, but managed just one victory (54-21 at Highland). Brookfield lost each of its first three games by one score or less, including a mucky Bell Game loss to Marceline on a field goal as time expired.
The victory in Highland was the only game in which the Bulldogs scored more than 20 points. After a summer spent heavily focusing on revamping and simplifying the Brookfield offense, Stevens believes he has more weapons than he has yet to have at his disposal as head coach.
"If you look at that quarterback spot, Carsen Beckman has done an extraordinary job of learning this offense," Stevens said. "Beyond that, we have a number of guys who we think can be really dangerous running the football.
"We feel like we really found something with our offense."
After an offseason shoulder surgery, incoming junior Derek Liebhart is expected to miss most of the season. He spent the final six games last year as the Bulldogs' starting quarterback. Gabe Rodriguez, Dawson Baker, and Trace Alexander all figure to receive plenty of touches out of the backfield in Brookfield's brand-new wing-T offense.
Baker and Alexander will be important on the defensive side of the football, starting at the linebacker position, and Beckmann and Rodriguez will hold down the secondary.
"We feel like we have four guys who are going to be able to run the football, and that's going to go a long way toward keeping our defense off the field as much as we can," Stevens said. "That was one of our major faults last year, we had too many possessions that were just too short, and by the time we get late into ball games, the wheels fall off on the defensive side of the ball.
"That being said, teams will have to respect our receivers because we feel like we have some guys on the outside who are capable of giving us a change of pace."
Brookfield again opens the season versus Palmyra at home on Aug. 30. The Bulldogs played arguably their most complete game defensively versus the Panthers last season, falling 7-6. The next week, versus Clarence Cannon power Monroe City, the Bulldogs fell 8-0 at home.
Brookfield's home games aside from the season opener include the Bell Game in week three, Highland on Oct. 4, and the Bulldogs close out the season at home with back-to-back Fridays versus South Shelby and Clark County.
Brookfield loses a lot of size up front from last season's team, but Stevens said that the next-man-up mentality is in full effect for the Bulldogs.
"We're still trying to figure out exactly what we have and how all of the pieces fit together, but these kids love the game. There's not a single kid on this team who won't be ready to take the field at any given time. These kids love football."