The Delavan-Darien/Williams Bay football team is attempting to play catch-up.
Former coach Bret St. Arnauld took the job in Mount Horeb in late April, leaving new head coach Hank Johnson to assemble his staff and get the pieces in place this summer.
It may not have been the best timing for the smallest team in the Southern Lakes Conference, but Johnson and Delavan-Darien aren't making excuses. The group spent the first week-plus of practice tweaking concepts and learning new verbiage.
The hope is that the Comets, just two years removed from winning a WIAA playoff game, will be able to use their spread offense to remain competitive in the SLC while searching for a return to the postseason.
"We've got great kids, and I really like coaching this team right now," Johnson said. "The quality of kids that we have is awesome, but we just don't have the quantity. I think we have 35 on varsity right now, so a lot of them will be playing both ways."
With that in mind, Johnson will stick with an offense that likes to spread the ball around and get athletes in space.
Senior Reese Crull and junior J.T. Greenwald were battling for the starting quarterback job as of late last week.
Senior Erik Gonzalez was the team's second-leading rusher--behind former quarterback Dakota Williams--a year ago and returns in the backfield, where junior Ross Gengler joins the mix.
Johnson feels receiving may be his team's deepest position. Returners include senior Jaime Flores and junior Mateo Morales.
Anchoring the line will be 6-foot-4, 270-pound junior Justin Cesarz and junior Stephen Tolbert.
"We've got some big kids up front this year, we've just got to get them some experience," Johnson said.
Delavan-Darien will stick with a 4-2-5 concept defensively but will tweak things just a bit.
Gengler was the Comets' leading tackler a year ago, and Gonzalez ranked second, and both return at the linebacker position.
Cesarz turns around to play both ways as a defensive tackle, with Tolbert and Morales working the edges.
Johnson, who spent the better part of a decade as a college football assistant (Carthage College and Beloit College) and also teaches and coaches softball at Delavan-Darien, is embracing his new position on the high school sidelines.
"You're taking kids that you get to see all the time ... so that's cool," Johnson said. "These are kids that live here. We're trying to promote this is a community, this is a program, this is a school. Quality kids, and they're trying to show the community what they've got."