FOREST CITY — Red practice jerseys dotted the field in lines as the Forest City Indians started their pre-practice stretching routine. Jogging out was head coach Chad Moore, ready to start another day at practice.
“Last year’s team just grew so much during the year,” Moore said. “I just hope they can pick up where we left off, they were getting the process of how to win, playing not to lose, they had the right mindset going into games and preparations.”
Moore led his team to a 5-4 finish last year, including a 4-1 record behind third-string sophomore quarterback Luke Johnson. Moore’s leadership brought discipline as the Indians allowed the fewest amount of penalties and were number one in turnover ratio.
This year, he’s back, an anomaly for the Indians in recent years. They spent three seasons with three different coaches, now they have an opportunity to pick up right where they left off.
“Everybody knows the system since we’ve had a coach that stayed for more than a year, that helps," senior running back Jaxon Jones said.
While many positions are up for grabs, Moore returns a plethora of talent, including senior second-team all-state linebacker Chris Jermeland.
Jermeland finished the 2016 season with 39 solo tackles, 62.5 total tackles and four interceptions. He stands next to senior running backs Wyatt Steffensen and Jones.
Jones rushed for 393 yards and four touchdowns in 2016. Steffensen, an active presence on defense with 33 tackles, may also see time at running back this season.
Luke Johnson, a junior, started last season as the third-string quarterback. He finished the season with a 4-1 record, 636 yards passing and four touchdowns.
“You just want to take the next step and obviously get one more W than we did last year and see if we make the playoffs,” Jermeland said.
Coaches can start overseeing their athletes’ offseason activities on June 1, and with Moore’s encouragement, the seniors felt it was more beneficial than in years past on and off the field.
“We’re probably like a more unified team,” Steffensen said. “We’re all really close-knit as friends, so just seeing the growth and bond that we share, whether it be just hanging out in the school around the community as well as on the field too and just shows kind of unity and respect and courage that we have for each other.”
Jones notes that the confidence among the underclassmen has also grown in the offseason.
“The younger kids are stepping up into some drills with some of the bigger guys, that’s good to see they’re not afraid to play at a higher level,” Jones said.
As the seniors take the field, the underclassmen follow suit, building the foundation that Moore has started.