Bulldogs set to defend Delaware Valley crown
The target on that purple and gold McLouth football jersey is much bigger these days.
Of course, going undefeated in regular season play for the first time since 1953 and winning the Delaware Valley League crown for the first time since 1994 will have that effect on a team.
"We know there's that target and three years ago, nobody worried about us, and now everybody is looking to measure themselves against us," said Bulldog coach Harry Hester, who enters his fourth year at the MHS helm.
During Hester's first season, the squad went 0-9, continuing a long losing streak for the school. But in 2004, MHS finished 4-5. And last year, the squad posted a 10-1 record, after bowing to eventual Class 3A runner-up Silver Lake, 21-8.
But for Hester, 2005 is a distant memory. And he's trying to instill that in his players.
"We don't really talk about being the defending champions," he said. "You have to go out and earn it this year. That banner's not ours (the 2005 DVL championship banner that hangs in the MHS gymnasium). That's last year's team. If we want to get one, we have to start working and get one."
Athletically, the Bulldogs are comparable to last year's breakthrough squad, even though McLouth lost several seniors to graduation, including quarterback Jimmy Steffey and running back Kevin Stewart, who is a red-shirt freshman at Pittsburg State.
The main challenge for this year's team, Hester said, would be forming new leadership.
"These guys are working pretty hard, we just have to get leadership where it needs to be," Hester said.
Top returners on this year's team include senior wide receivers Trevor Keling and Andrew Booth, senior linemen Jake Eibes and Danny Crouse and junior Mark Stewart, younger brother of Kevin Stewart. The younger Stewart is expected to guide the offense at quarterback.
"They're very talented," Hester said of this year's squad. "They're a very smart group of kids and I'm very excited to see what happens this fall."
McLouth's season begins at 7 p.m. Friday at Troy.