Trying to build off last season
Despite the disappointing finish, Sheridan coach Brice Ingram is confident his team can bounce back and compete for a playoff berth. His focus in fall camp has been building off the positives that propelled his team to a successful start last year and using the final three losses as motivation for the coming year.
The Spartans are returning many key players, including senior quarterback Matt Bushbaum and the majority of the front seven on defense, and have a relatively young roster.
Ingram said his team should be able to use experience to its advantage.
"We have a lot of guys coming back that have varsity experience," he said. "Guys have been around the program for a while now and are ready to get back on the field in game action. They've worked hard in practice this summer."
Sheridan's final three loses were all close games, something Ingram said his team should be better in this year.
The Spartans lost to both Amity and Colton by just four points before falling to Horizon Christian by two touchdowns in the season finale.
"We won a close one early against Valley Catholic early last year, but didn't really play a close game until late in the year after that," Ingram said. "Those were tough games that could of gone either way, and I think our guys will do well in that situation this year. We're more experienced and hungry."
While the emphasis is on finishing strong, Sheridan will need to start fast as well. Ingram wants his team to come out aggressive and ready in the team's first test at the Harrisburg Jamboree Saturday.
The game — which includes Monroe, La Pine and host Harrisburg — will serve as a tuneup for their first official game the following week, Sept. 6, against Monroe.
"The jamboree will be good for us to knock off the rust and hit somebody besides ourselves," Ingram said. "We really want to come out ready to play in that first game with Monroe, so getting in a rhythm and working out some kinks will be important this weekend."
The Spartans will play on the road to start the season against the Dragons before their home opener against Valley Catholic the following week. Sheridan beat both teams last season in its first two games, and will try to do the same this year.
Managing emotion and execution is what Ingram has stressed to his team in the early going.
"In those first couple games it's easy to make mistakes because guys are overexcited," he said. "If we can avoid the mental mistakes and avoid turnovers early it should set us up well. Starting out in the win column can do a lot for confidence."
One obstacle Sheridan faces is a lopsided schedule. The Spartans have six away games — seven including the jamoboree — and only three home games in 2013. Coaches don't set the season schedule, but Ingram said he didn't think it would affect his team.
Without homefield advantage, focus and execution will be especially important, Ingram said.
"We have no control over that kind of stuff and we're not worried about it," he said. "Home field advantage can swing a game, but isn't necessarily as influential in high school football. Our guys can't worry about that. If we play hard and execute it doesn't matter where we're playing."
The Spartans host Valley Catholic, Colton and Amity. Sheridan will play on the road for four conference games.