The Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake football team knows it has a target on its back as it tries to defend its Section II, Class A title and get back to the state finals. But the Spartans aren't going to worry about it.
Our standards are higher than others because we've been there before, said junior wide receiver Keaton Flint. "But we know we have to take it one game at a time."
"I look at this season as a journey," added senior quarterback Phillip Neumann. "Hopefully, we can be there at the end."
Neumann has some of the biggest shoes to fill as he replaces three-year starter Paul Layton at quarterback. Layton was a triple threat as he could run well, throw well and kick well.
Neumann won't be handling the kicking duties, but he will guide an offense that has several skill players back, including Flint and tailbacks Tyler Paluba and Brandon Beatty.
"All these guys have a lot of experience playing in big games, and it gives me a comfort level because I have confidence in them," said Neumann.
"He a senior who played a lot last year as a junior," said head coach Matt Shell. "He does have playing experience and meaningful playing experience, which is nice."
Who will BH-BL's challengers be? Here is a look at the Spartans and their competition:
Head coach: Matt Shell
Key players: Keaton Flint (WR/DB), Phillip Neumann (QB), Tyler Paluba (RB/DB), Brandon Beatty (RB/DB)
Outlook: The Spartans may have lost the likes of Layton, Nick Henderson, Erik Vuillaume, Ian Schwan and Connor Hadcock to graduation, but they feel confident that they have enough to compete for another Sectional title.
"They've been working hard, and they're a nice bunch of kids," said Shell. "We're fortunate to have these guys back who have some experience. These guys know that games are at a premium [in the regular season], and they know that once games are upon us, they have to play their best every time."