"We had to take our backup quarterback and play him at center for several games," head coach Mark Juhl said. "When somebody came out, we just didn't have the subs."
The Lions have remedied both problems this year, and it showed in Friday's 8-Man Jamboree at St. Joseph Christian. 18 of the 25 roster members saw the field against Nodaway-Holt as they put up 32 points overall.
"That definitely speaks to us being a lot deeper team this year. There were a lot of bright spots. We're definitely a much-improved team."
The increased numbers are a return to the norm that Juhl has built in the program, and it's put the buzz back into camp.
"I really feel like this is going to be a comeback year," senior offensive and defensive lineman Logan Morrison said. "We have a lot of things we just didn't have before. We have a lot of returning experience."
One of those veterans is junior quarterback Matthew Corkins, who saw his first varsity snaps as a freshman in the 2012 district tournament. Now, with a full season as a starter under his belt, the offense expects to flourish.
"We have great receivers all around, so I think we can be a huge passing and running team this year. I'm excited to see what that's going to look like."
The Lions have traditionally been fueled by how many points they put on the board, but plan to focus more on defense this season. Despite the loss of all-state lineman Brian Juhl, they say it starts with the pass rush.
"Hold them, just don't let the get those easy touchdowns," senior offensive and defensive lineman John Hall said. "We've got to be able to cover the pass and our front line has to be able to keep guys in the backfield. We can't let them get around us."
The bigger size of the roster and the players has also gotten St. Joseph Christian back to thinking bigger.
"We know what it takes to be a state champion," Juhl said. "I feel like these guys have the potential."
The Lions open the season at North Andrew on Friday, August 22.