"The kids have moved on, its easier for the kids to move on. As a coach, you always think back to the last game you coached, and the last game that we coached, we didn't win. That's been the motivation all off-season, to find a way to improve this team and get past the second round,"
Moving on from last year's overtime playoff loss to Sacred Heart Griffin is the best thing Jacksonville High can do. They're not focused on last season, but they're certainly fueled by it. Perhaps more than ever, the Crimsons are united towards one common goal: build upon the breakthrough of last fall.
"We're more bonded, we have more camaraderie, we're more of a brotherhood. Everyone is together this year and not separate,"
"This year I think everybody on the team is clicking, and we have a really great group that's comfortable with each other. I think that's really going to push us this year,"
"When that happens in the locker room and its harmonious in that way, it makes everybody's job easier because they're focusing on the opponent,"
With 15 returning starters including 4 on the offensive line, Jacksonville has the pieces it needs to battle at the top of the Central State Eight. The most intriguing component of this team is the quarterback platoon Mark Grounds plans to deploy on opponents. With both Bryce Schnitker and Zac Lonergan taking snaps, the coaching staff can take creativity to a new level.
"Coach Grounds is really comfortable with throwing in new stuff and challenging everybody to get their best and run the plays that will help us the most as a team,"
"Bryce has a different skill set than what Zac does, and its my job as a coach to utilize all of those skills and give us a chance to be successful and win. We have a luxury, and when you have that, the best thing is not to take it for granted and to utilize it,"
"We're really trying to base our offense on more of an Oregon-style where we're fast-paced and go go go. If you've got 2 quarterbacks in there, you'll never get the same look twice. That's really going to screw with defenses and that's what we're hoping for,"
With as much talent and size as Jacksonville has, opportunity isn't just knocking, it's about to kick down the door. Plus, the Crimsons will have home games against each of the top 4 conference teams from a year ago. Put simply, the stars have aligned for Jacksonville football to take its biggest step yet towards becoming a giant in the CS8 and Illinois football.
"I think this year we match up just as good if not better with all of the powerhouses of the CS8, and we think we're going to be right up there at the top,"
"The coaching staff believes in us and we believe in ourselves and I think that's huge. This is the year that Jacksonville High School is going to take it all the way,"