They suffered their first loss in almost two years and a Class 1 semifinal loss to Marceline kept them from their fourth Show-Me Bowl appearance in five seasons.
"It kind of stung last year and it was a pretty bitter taste in our mouths," senior running back/defensive back Kellen Overstreet said. "I think we're ready to get after it and try to make another run."
Overstreet, a University of Wyoming commit and Class 1 Offensive Player of the Year that holds the state records for total and rushing touchdowns, is part of backfield full of returners. Fellow ball carriers Keithan Litton and T.C. East aim to take the heat off Overstreet, while quarterback Drew Finch returns from a knee injury.
"Just the experience... Drew has a poise about him that's hard to match, so I think it's really good to have him back."
The wild card will be the offensive line, made up of entirely new starters. The trenches have been the anchor of Hamilton's potent rushing attack, and head coach Dave Fairchild knows they have work to do to make that the case again.
"We'll see if we can coach or not. That's going to be key is what kind of job we do as coaches to get them ready to go," he said. "There's motivation for those players. They're anxious to get going. They know we can't worry about the big picture until we get all this little stuff and the minute details done properly."
If the line can get acclimated quickly, the Hornets could be problem for the KCI and Class 1 again.
"We still hurt from the losses last year, so we'll try to come back and go for revenge and get back there again," Litton said.
Hamilton opens the year at home against South Harrison on August 22.