ROSEPINE – For the first time in years, there are high expectations around the Rosepine football program.

The Eagles went 10-2 last year after entering the season on a 20-game losing streak, going on to win a district title.

With a core of its players back, Rosepine will challenge for the District 4 championship once again.

The biggest change on the team is not on the field, but the sidelines, after Brad Ducote replaced Johnny Cryer has head coach. Cryer took the offensive coordinator job at Many High School.

"It's going well as far as the kids and football end of it. It's been great and pretty easy transition. The administrative end has been a learning process. The kids and football part of it is fun.

"It was more relaxing last year. I was up top calling a few plays."

The Eagles offense will, once again, be led by running back Seth Shirley. The senior running back was a first-team all-district selection after racking up 20 touchdowns as a junior.

"Our approach is going to be lining up and running the ball first," Ducote said. "Then we can mix some passes in. We're going to use our size to our advantage.

"To me, especially toward the end of last year and this year, he is running with better vision," Ducote said. "He sees things very well. When I was on the field during the scrimmage (against Bolton) I never had to say 'cut up' or 'cut inside.' He sees it and makes second level cuts. He is running better and with more vision."

Quarterback Seth Ducote, son of head coach Brad, is at the helm of the offense for his second season. The duel threat signal caller recorded 23 touchdowns on the ground and through the air last year.

"I'm looking forward to getting on the field with my guys and capturing another district championship," Seth Ducote said. "I want to go farther than the second round.

"Last year felt so unusual at first. Then I started getting into a rhythm of winning games."

Seth has been coached by his father at different levels for the most of his career and knows how to separate home and on the field.

"I know he's my dad, but he's dad at home," Seth Ducote said. "He's coach out here."

Shirley has two new targets on the outside after the graduation of Josh Floyd and Alex Pope.

"I expect big things out of my two receivers, (Perkins) and Mayfield," Brad Ducote said. "They have to keep people honest. They’re both little scatty guys. They probably weight about 150 a piece, but they have good hands and see the field well once we get the ball in their hands. They're good athletes."

On the defensive, the Eagles return the district's defensive player of the year, Scott Wisby, who is moving to linebacker.

Wisby recorded 81 tackles, 13 tackles for loss and two forced fumbles as a sophomore.

"I expect them to be an aggressive defense and for them to be sound," Brad Ducote said. "We have a couple of new kids starting at corner. They're young football kids. They have to pick it up. Other than that, the linebacker play looks really good at the scrimmage. I was worried about our defensive tackles, but they played well."

The defense has new safeties, and senior Kaleb Clause looks forward to stepping in and making plays.

"This year, I'm stepping up in the free safety spot and trying to be the best leader I can be," Klause said. "I'm hoping that the whole defense will see that and try to work even harder this year."

Last year revitalized a struggling program, and the defending district champs do not want to go backward.

"I tell them one game at a time," Brad Ducote said. "I know it's a cliche, but we're not going to overlook anybody. I tell them that this is a new year and they haven't proven anything yet. I was kind of worried about that going into the scrimmage, but I was totally satisfied. They took no plays off, and they got after it. They are as hungry as they were last year, maybe more. I think they want to prove last year wasn't a fluke."

The Eagles kick off their season against Merryville at 7 p.m. on August 30 on the road.

"I'm seeing how my kids respond to me being on the sidelines and how the flow goes," Brad Ducote said. "I want to see how I handle certain situations. It's a learning process for myself, as well. I guess, overall, I want to see true game situations and how the guys respond to us."