After ending a lengthy playoff drought in 2014, the Bucs fell short of the playoffs last year. Fourth-year head coach Duane Stoeckle is confident that won't be the case this year.
“I know we’re bigger, I know we’re faster, I know we’re stronger than we were a year ago," Stoeckle said. "Hopefully that pays off for wins.”
In 2016, Stoeckle will have a final go with the athletes who were freshmen when he took over. That group features several four-year starters, and a crop of new players who have bought into his program.
“When we say the word “BUCS,” it means 'Believe U Can Succeed,'" said Stoeckle. "I still think, going back to when I first got the job, a lot of our teams didn’t believe we could succeed. That’s the first step. Once you believe, you can build from there. The guys have been coachable; our coaches have done a great job teaching, and the players have been kind of like sponges trying to pick things up. If we can put it all together, I think we can be successful.”
Senior fullback Cam Payne agrees with Stoeckle, and said the team’s dedication and desire reached new heights in the offseason.
“We have a lot of underclassmen and new seniors that really bit hard into the program," Payne said. "They’re wanting to put in the time and the work to get us that playoff seed this year.”
That desire is driven by a missed opportunity in 2015. The Bucs fell short of the playoffs, due in large part to a 1-4 start to open the season. But returning players hope to use a strong ending to the season as a springboard this year.
“At the end of the year, we came back and won four of our last five games, which really shows what we can do," said senior lineman Dalton Marple. "I believe that’s going to transfer over to this year as well."
Added Stoeckle: “A lot of teams could have folded up the tents and gone home, but I think they learned how to fight through things.”
The Bucs are idle in week one. They open with Hampshire Sept. 2.