(HIGHLAND, Ks.) Before each season, Doniphan West head coach Nick Fuemmeler asks his seniors about what they want to emphasize in the coming games.
"The three things they decided on this year is that we want to play clean football, we want to play as a team and we want to play start to finish," Fuemmeler said.
Suitable goals for a team that made a trip to the playoffs last season, but came up two games shy of a state title.
"You have to come in with that mentality that you have to do what you have to do and get it done from the start, and you can't end until that final whistle blows," senior lineman Derek Gibson said.
"To me, that's the mentality that it takes to be successful as a football team," Fuemmeler said. "You have to come out of the lockerroom ready to go and fired up and focused. And you have to maintain that fire and that focus for four quarters."
The Mustangs found that fire making its second trip to the playoffs in 2011, and they did it with just 19 players on the roster.
"We came in with the mentality that when we get there we'll be laughing," Gibson said, "but when we leave, they're not."
Now after success last season, Doniphan West's numbers are raised enough to field a junior varsity team, and the underclassmen from 2011 are showing improvement.
Quarterback Tristan Speer enters his sophomore year with confidence after a solid season, giving a run-happy offense more versatility.
"Our number one goal: run on teams," halfback Jordan Sellers said. "But we also have a great passing game."
"Our play-action game was huge for us last year. I expect it to be huge for us again this year, but Tristan back as a sophomore," Fuemmeler said. "He threw for 1600 yards or something like that last year, and the kid is an accurate passer. He understands defenses."
With a young team on the field in the upcoming season, Fuemmeler is not expecting anything less out of the Mustangs.
"We may be young, but our expectations are to go out and play hard from start to finish, and execute," Fuemmeler said. "And ultimately win football games. Whether we're young or whether we're veterans, that will be our expectations."
Doniphan West opens the season on the road against Riverside.