(ST. JOSEPH, Mo.) Things have been rough for Leblond football lately. The Eagles record over the past three seasons combine is 3-28, but those numbers do not show the progress they have made. Head coach Tony Dudik has been forced to start a lot of underclassmen since he began there in 2010, but now he is ready for those difficult years to pay off.
"We understand what it means to compete now, where a lot of kids at other schools really don't get to step on the field until they're a junior or senior," Dudik said. "My guys have been out there for two years, so they know what that tastes like."
The Eagles graduate four seniors, but 11 players with at least four starts on the defensive side of the ball return to the field.
"Now, we have to be young men," Dudik said. "We finally have some hair on our chests, and we've improved our speed and our strength. And hopefully the confidence and the physicality is there."
One player that exhibits that confidence and physicality is Leblond's senior running back, Ausin Dawkins.
Dawkins was a Class 2 All-State second team running back according to the Missouri Coaches Association. Now playing as a senior, he is hoping for big things.
"I see us being a heck of a lot better than we have been in past years," Dawkins said. "Dudik's brought us a long way. We have a great coaching staff, and that's going to help us a lot. Our line, our defense, it's just coming back together and looking great.
"I feel like we can go far if we believe in each other," quarterback Matthew McCullough said. "Sky's the limit here. We've been working hard all through Winter and all through Spring. This Summer we worked hard in the weightroom, went to a lot of camps, 7-on-7, and I feel like we're going to do really well."
Now entering his third year with Leblond, and 36th coaching football overall, Dudik's ready to see this team benefit from the struggles of the past.
"Now it's time for us to step up and get a few Ws in that win column," Dudik said. "Leblond's been 0-10, 1-9, 1-9, but I promise everybody it is a different Leblond team."