For a two-win football team moving up a classification in 2014, simplicity seems to be the ultimate solution for the Skyline Falcons.
With the number of seniors littering the field, coach Kevin Rice is hoping that experience and a thinner playbook — though it may still contain a few surprises — helps make them a competitive squad in the tough Northern League.
"We tried to pick a style of play both offensively and defensively that we feel matches the types of kids we have and gives us the best chance to be competitive against some tough teams," said Rice. "We've really cut out a lot of things, hoping they can focus on a few things and just go out on the field and play with more confidence. That's another card we're trying to play."
To say last year was frustrating for SHS would probably not do it justice. The team easily could have started out 4-0 but gave up late leads to Niwot and Thompson Valley. In Tri-Valley League play it was deficiencies early in games that led to an 0-5 year. They were outscored 188-69, falling behind too much and too often.
"We're working hard to be able to come out right from the start of the game and be up-tempo," center-defensive end Zach Tovar said. "When we'd get down two touchdowns early, it was hard on our mentality. We're not going to be a fourth-quarter team."
Added safety Matt Bulow: "We lost two tough games at the beginning of the year and just gave up on the season it seemed. The seniors this year have to keep the whole team up. We have to play all year long."
This year, with Skyline now in a league with Silver Creek, Broomfield, Greeley Central, Mountain View and Fort Collins, the base of the offense is flipping almost completely in hopes the Falcons can sustain drives longer and keep from giving the opposition the ability to pile on points.
Rice wasn't shy about saying he prefers to run this year, using a committee approach. That's quite different than in the past, where the Falcons used the spread offense almost exclusively.
Senior running backs Damian Galaz, Seth Thomas, Dylan Kram and Ilan Rodriguez will all get a chance to make an impact carrying the ball.
"We have a lot of good kids that can carry the ball, but we also have a solid, strong offensive line that's worked hard to get more physical," Rice said. "We'll be a two-back set team for the most part and try to be downhill. Hopefully that sets up a lot of other things."
Run-heavy does not necessarily mean run-only, and the Falcons are looking at a couple of quarterbacks they feel good about in play-action sets. Senior Dominic Mansanares will get a crack at playing under center full time after stepping in late last year, while junior Josh Angstead also has experience.
Mansanares said he likes the direction the Falcons are going and knows that his classmates are eager to get back to winning.
"We know that if we have a successful season and be someone we're not supposed to be, because we're probably going to be underdogs in every game, that'll gain some respect for this program," Mansanares said. "Last year we had a lot of checks at the line, and a lot of players got confused. This year, hopefully we have plays in place to where we can run up to the line and just execute.
"I'm looking forward to being that leader, that guy the team can look to when times are tough, come that fourth quarter when we're down by seven and need a touchdown."
A lot of those same players will be starting on defense, but there is optimism that depth will build and fresh legs will emerge. There also may be some different looks on that side of the ball, with a major emphasis on stopping the run.
"We're the team that wants to change Skyline football, and I think we're on track to do that," senior Justin Forsyth said. "We're preparing a lot better than in the past."
Follow Adam on Twitter: twitter.com/AdamDunivan24