A year ago, Oaks Coach C.D. Thompson watched as a large number of his football players walked across the stage to receive their diplomas.
The graduates, were among those who contributed to the program's success for several years.
At that point, Thompson thought his football cupboard looked a bit bare.
“After losing what we lost the last two years, I thought the next couple of years were going to be horrible and [we might] not win a game, “said Thompson.
But then things changed. The 2017-18 team began to emerge.
“We have had some move in and that is really going to help," Thompson said. "Now I could see us maybe being good enough to not only make it to the playoffs but maybe grab a win or two.”
The Warriors got a big move-in Choogie Young from Colcord at the end of football season last year.
The team then saw another senior lineman, Alex Morris - as starter for the team in the past - return from Idaho.
Other players followed, which makes Thompson and fellow coach Tony Arnold excited about the team's prospects.
“We may not have a lot of kids out but I really like the quality of players we have out,” said Thompson. “We just have to go out and do the best with what players we have and surprise some people."
“We have some hard nosed football players this year,” said Arnold, saying the mental toughness exhibited on the field may be the key to success.
With the changes, Thompson said the Warriors could be in line for another winning season.
“First we want to out and make the playoffs and then make a run into the playoffs,” said Thompson.
Oaks has used a two-quarterback system in the past and will do so again this season.
“We don’t have the benefit of playing players one way. Ours kids have to play both ways," Thompson said. "They have to play banged up sometimes because of our numbers. But I think our players are tougher for it."
Junior T.J. Cummings and sophomore Donovan Hammer will serve as the team's players in the two-quarterback system.
“T.J. is a good athlete that can run and throw the football a little bit,” said Arnold. “Donovan is in the same mold as T.J.”
When he is not at quarterback Hammer will play running back or wide receiver. Aaron Budder and Brenden Robbins will see time at running back. While Budder and Brackett will play outside as well as Hammer and Brett Robbins.
“All our skill guys are interchangeable," Thompson said. "They can play several different places."
Senior Alex Morris will be center for the Warriors on the offensive line with sophomore Jackson Ross seeing action in the rotation. Senior Choogie Young and junior Kawliga Vann will start on the offensive line.
“We will use those four on the line the majority of the time and may move one or more of our skill guys over to play some on the offensive and defensive line,” said Thompson.
The defensive line will be much of the same people with Young, Vann, Morris and Jackson joined by Cummings.
“It is not often you have a quarterback that also plays on the defensive line," Thompson said. "But T.J. is one of those type kids."
Hammer and Brenden Robbins are the linebackers with Brackett and Chance Wernimont playing cornerback.
“Whoever can move laterally the best will be the starters at cornerbacks,” said Thompson.
Budder and Brackett will start as safeties with the twist brothers - Freddie and Orin - the back-ups in the secondary.
The Warriors got a late addition when Jagar Soldier returned after playing for the Warriors in 2016.
“When you get to the linebackers and defensive backs those guys back there are interchangeable," Arnold said. "We can move them around if we need to."
Thompson remains optimistic, even though he knows his team will face two of the best teams in the state - Davenport and Depew - during district play.
“We just have to go out and play hard every night and win the games we should and maybe pull off a surprise or two," Thompson said. "I feel really good about this team.
"It is different than what we have had in the past. We have different type players and I wasn’t expecting what I have ended up with player wise and I am excited to see what the season brings us."