The East Central football team is coming off a one-win season in Seth Smith's first year on the job, but the Hornets are an upbeat group this summer as they prepare for the 2014 campaign.
That optimistic outlook should come as no surprise considering Smith's usual sunny disposition, and it appears that approach is now being reflected in his players.
"We're working every day in the gym," senior quarterback Jarik Biggs said. "We can see a difference from last year. We've improved a lot, tremendously. We're ready to go out next year and show them the East Central Hornets."
Smith is expecting to see a step forward this year at a school known much more for winning baseball than winning football.
"There are so many things as coaches that we could have done better last year," said Smith, a former Pearl River Central assistant.. "The big thing is we see a significant amount of growth from year one to year two just based on them having a full year in the weight room and trying to develop them. There are a lot of things we have to continue to get better at, but we're excited about this season."
Biggs and teammates have been participating in 7-on-7 drills this summer and doing everything possible to make sure Smith's second year at the school is a good one.
So far, Smith is pleased with the commitment he's seen from players this summer.
"We average 58 to 62 (in the weight room)," Smith said. "Our numbers have been really good. That's a thank you to our kids for selling out. There's no doubt in my mind that our kids want to be successful. It's up to the coaches to put them in a position to succeed."
Biggs looks at his teammates and sees a group willing to follow Smith's direction.
"We believe in coach Smith," Biggs said. "Last year was really tough on us. Through our spring game, you could see a difference. We believe in him a lot as a coach. He's like the father of this family.
"We didn't hustle as much last year as we do this year. We're going to hustle on the field every day."
While more wins would have been nice in the first year, Smith's ultimate goal was to lay the groundwork for the future.
"Year one was a foundational year," Smith said. "We were trying to establish a new mentality and mind set. I believe our kids understand that mentality. We want to be successful and that comes with playing with relentless effort each play."
Smith has to replace his starting quarterback, Justin Plummer, and two running backs, Canen Cooper and Jake Eaker, who rushed for more 1,000 yards each last year.
Players like senior running back Nate Cohen, who rushed for 231 yards last year, will be relied on to help replace the production lost with the graduation of Cooper and Eaker.