MARIETTA — Last season, first-year head coach Matt Suffal took his football team to the first round of the playoffs for the first time in a while.
This year, he and his team want more.
"Our 4-7 year last year was something to build on, but we don't want that anymore," Suffal said. "We want a home playoff game, we want to have a chance to push for the district title."
Suffal and his squad return plenty of starters on both sides of the ball, and that's something that has he and his coaching staff optimistic about this fall.
"This team is a lot smarter this year," Suffal said. "We come into practice, not expecting to be average any more. These guys know a lot, so they don't have to learn as much and we don't have to teach as much, which makes it a lot easier to put in everything we need to."
The Indians return quite a few skill players on offense, but replace some lineman with new guys at a smaller size.
"We'll be a lot smaller on the offensive line this year, but we feel like that gives us a chance to do a lot more things," Suffal said. "We'll be able to do some things we haven't been able to in the past."
Like many around the area, Marietta makes the switch to the flexbone this season, which can only help the Indians' new front line on offense. The Indians welcome back senior center Caesar Gomez up front, but the rest are somewhat new. Suffal feels, however, that could be an advantage.
"Moving to the flex will really help our offense out this year," Suffal said. "We'll have opportunities for a lot of double teams at the point of attack."
And as far as the skill guys? Suffal likes his team's chances there, too. Marietta returns senior wing backs Cash Lang and Jerardo Andrade, along with a tall 6-foot-5 wide receiver in senior Jordan McCarroll. The quarterback spot is currently up for grabs, as the Indians have had to fight youth and injuries. Senior Chaz Sanders handled quarterbacking duties for the Indians last season.
"We're very athletic out on the edge. We've got some really tall targets at wide receiver," Suffal said. "Our passing game should be good. I'm really excited about what our offense has a chance to do this year."
Defensively, the Indians also welcome a new philosophy implemented by Suffal and his staff.
"We're switching to an odd-stack," Suffal said. "It's brand new, our coaches have done a great job of installing it and getting the kids in the best position that suits them and our team. It will allow us to play really fast."
With fast, comes a lot of blitzing and pressure, which Suffal points out, will be a constant. Gomez and Andrade lead the defense at their linebacker positions. Lang doubles as the Indians' top defensive end and McCarroll, with his size, can be a shutdown corner that's hard to throw at, especially with constant heat on the opposing QB.
"We're going to bring pressure, tons of it," Suffal said. "Every play, we'll be moving and bringing pressure. It'll allow us to be tenacious on defense."
And if all things go like expected, Suffal thinks this group could be something special.
"I think we have a team talent wise that could be close to the top or at the top of our district," Suffal said. "That's our goal this year."
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