At first glance, the Mark Twain Tigers are young - really young. But that doesn't faze coach Matt Hudson, because he's been there before.
"I haven't ever coached this young of a team, but I was part of a team this young when I played, so I do have some experience with it. The young guys have proven that they are ready to play, they're physical enough, its more about bringing them along mentally to play in the Clarence Cannon Conference. They've done a nice job and are coming along nicely,"
It would be easy for the young team to simply close its eyes and brace for impact, but that's not the Tigers mantra. Instead, this group is embracing an opportunity to build in its final season as a member of the Clarence Cannon.
"We don't have a lot of leaders this year, but that kind of brings us together because we're all our own leaders. Its brought the team closer together than we have been the past couple years,"
Hudson fully expects a handful of freshman to trot out as starters this year - and they'll be led by a sophomore at quarterback. But Ethan Mack's confident demeanor masks his underclassman status.
"I know I'm young, but since I'm a varsity quarterback I need to be a leader for this team and hype them up when they're down,"
"Ethan Mack started the last two games for us last year and kind of took that over. He's progressed, went to some camps over the summer and has come a long way in a short amount of time,"
"Our quarterback knows what he's doing, and our line is full of underclassmen but there are a few guys with experience,"
The Tigers biggest strength might be on the lines, and in time, the surplus of big bodies will help develop the rush attack.
"Most schools complain about having too many running backs, but we definitely have a lot more linemen than we do smaller guys. Having Miller and Hawkinson back this year gives us a strong line. We're going to have big guys up front and none of us are afraid to hit, either. We have some good running backs, too, we just have to make sure we're focused,"
One final run-through in the CCC will be a great test for this team before shifting to the EMO next year. There's progress to be made, and a foundation to be set. This is the start of something good in Center.
"We're all still learning and we're all together on one team but we just have to help them out and run them through plays,"
"We just have to take care of our mistakes from the game before, help each other out, watch each others back, keep out of trouble and we'll be fine,"
"If you can mark progress from game to game and know you're getting better, that's the sign of a well-rounded team and that's what I'm looking for,"