Thomson High School Head Football Coach Luther Welsh would like to see this year's squad more in tune with the winning tradition that has long been associated with the rich football history of the school.
There are some obstacles that stand in the way right now, the legendary coach admitted during an interview last week.
First of all, Coach Welsh and his staff of assistant coaches must fill the void of several key offensive and defensive positions, due to the graduation of several players.
"Right now, I'd say our season is unpredictable, because we've got to replace so many people," said Coach Welsh, who is entering his 51st career season as a football coach. "We're going to be competitive, but I don't know what kind of team we will be like in terms of wins/losses. It's hard to say right now. They can be competitive with the right attitude and desire to play the best they can possibly play."
The 74-year-old legendary head mentor, who has helped guide the Thomson High Bulldogs to three state championships in two different classifications during two different stints at the school, contends that the Bulldogs have their work cut out in terms of finding players to fill a number of open positions.
"Right now, we've got a lot of positions to fill," Coach Welsh said. "In some of the positions, we don't know who will step up and help us. It's up in the air, you might say."
He's particularly concerned about the team's secondary.
The Bulldogs graduated Roderick Roberts and Vincent Scott and now both of those key positions "are up for grabs," Coach Welsh said. "Both of them did a fine job as defensive backs."
Another defensive back, who played a lot last season and was lost to graduation was Nick Brown.
In addition, Coach Welsh equally is concerned about who will replace the now-graduated defensive end positions that were played by Deltric Sneed and Quin Lee.
"We've got to find some people who can replace players that we've lost," Coach Welsh said.
Several other players lost to last year's graduation, who will be missed include Anthony "Pooh" Erwin, who played quarterback; fullback LeBrandon Hudson; center Daniel Cheely; long snapper Rodney Reeves; tight end Jaquavius Surrency; defensive lineman Brandon Fullbright; left tackle Montrell Winfrey; and offensive split end Phillip Bonner.
Hudson rushed for 1,400 yards last season and scored a number of touchdowns.
"We have to find replacements for all those players," Coach Welsh said.
The Bulldogs, who have yet to start practicing in full pads and hitting, have about 90 players on this year's team, according to Head Assistant Coach Mark Daniel.
"From the group of kids on the team, we hope to find some willing to do what it takes to be winners," Coach Welsh said.
Some of those ingredients include dedication, sacrifice and commitment.
"You've got to do what is necessary, if you want to win football games," Coach Welsh said.
As for the value of hard work, Coach Welsh likes the words of the late George Halas of the Chicago Bears: "Nobody who ever gave his best regretted it."
"I believe in that saying a whole lot," Coach Welsh said. "It's true."
What he'd like to see develop with this year's team is a sense of tradition and pride.
"This community has a lot of tradition," Coach Welsh said. "The people in this community have a lot of heart and pride. That's what I'd like to see our young players build on. They haven't been involved with that as much and I'd really like to see them become self-disciplined and learn just how important tradition really is to our football program."
Coach Welsh said he'd enjoy seeing such tradition return to the confines of The Brickyard.
"You'd have less problems from a coaching standpoint and the players would learn how important it is to step up and give their best all the time," Coach Welsh said, noting that his last state championship team in 2002 was "an ideal team."
"They never complained about anything," he explained. "They just went out, committed themselves, worked hard and did the job. Today, a lot of young kids don't want to pay the price. They don't want to work hard and play well. We want them to understand they must prepare to play football the same as they prepare for their lessons in the classroom. In order to win, they must remember, too, that they have to play together and can't be selfish."
Coach Welsh said it's up to him and his coaching staff to sink those beliefs into the minds of the players.
"We've got to work hard ourselves as coaches and drill that into them," he added.