With a core group of seniors, including experience at quarterback and running back, second-year Sissonville head coach Eddie Smolder enters the 2012 season looking to secure the Indians' first Class AA playoff berth since 2007.
Sissonville hasn't posted a winning record since then. Last year's two-win season was an improvement from 2010, when the Indians won one game, but Smolder thinks the program is pointed in the right direction.
"It's a process," he said. "When I came here we were looking to build the foundation, and now we want to put the walls up. Our four cornerstones are toughness, discipline, hard work and enthusiasm. That's what we hang our hat on and what we preach everyday. That's what will turn this thing around."
A big part of the optimism for Sissonville's 2012 season is the return of senior running back Trent Stowers. Standing 6-foot-2 and checking in at more than 200 pounds, Stowers ran for 720 yards and six touchdowns last year to go with 423 receiving yards and five touchdowns. A Class AA second-team all-state selection in 2011, Smolder said he expects bigger and better things from Stowers in 2012.
"Trent has put himself in a good position and worked hard in the offseason," Smolder said. "He had a good year in basketball and that has helped him become more athletic. He's a guy that lifted twice a day in the offseason and is really invested. I see great things for him this year. He's the guy we're going to look to in crunch time."
Stowers said he wants to improve on his numbers from last season in addition to making Sissonville a playoff contender again.
"I want to get at least 1,000 yards rushing and at least 500 receiving just based off last year and what I think I can do better," he said. "[Making the playoffs] would be huge. We'd get a lot of people out in the future and then if they believe we can make it to the playoffs it might keep happening."
Joining Stowers as a returning senior will be quarterback Austin Crawford, fullback Jared Maurer and utility player Nathan Miller, who saw time at quarterback and as a wing for the Indians last season. Also returning is senior offensive lineman Patrick Messenger.
"We're returning a lot of guys," Smolder said. "We only had three seniors last year and we lost one starter. We're excited about our experience, we've just got to turn that into playing harder and faster on Friday nights and see what happens."
Stowers said the juniors assumed most of the leadership burden for the Indians last season, and that has helped the team transition to this season.
"It helps a lot," Stowers said. "Last year we only had three [seniors] so a lot of the leadership came from the juniors. Now we're seniors and people look up to us. The more seniors we have the more we can get people on the same page as us."
Sissonville plays its final scrimmage today at Roane County before opening its season next week at home against Chapmanville.
"I love my team right now," Smolder said. "We're really gelling together and working hard. We're excited."