By most measures, the 2006 edition of the Westhill football team was an unqualified success, from its domination of its own league to its march all the way to the Section III Class B championship game.
Yet head coach Gary Griffo said that, mere days after the season was over, Warrior players wanted to start working on 2007.
Perhaps that was because the ending -- a 32-7 loss to Cazenovia in the title tilt at the Carrier Dome -- left such a bitter taste, and was a total reversal of everything the Warriors had accomplished to that point.
"The guys didn't like the way it ended," said Griffo. "They wanted to go in the weight room the following week. (To say they were) hungry is an understatement."
More than nine months later, the hunger persists, and Westhill is again among the Class B title favorites, hoping to take that last step -- something it did when it won back-to-back sectional championships in 2003 and '04.
The biggest reason for optimism is the fact that running back Dale Ross is back for his senior season, ready to pile up big numbers.
In '06, Ross ran for 1,824 yards, the most of any returning back in Central New York, and brings every possible positive attribute to his position.
"He can do it all," said Griffo. "He's powerful and hard to tackle when he runs inside, and has the speed and quickness to go outside."
And on trick plays, said Griffo, Ross can throw the ball -- with either hand. No wonder colleges are taking a long look, and opposing teams will center their game plans around trying to contain him. If Ross needs a breather, either Sam Penizotto or Jesse Krell can step in to carry the ball.
To make sure defenses don't stack the line of scrimmage to go after Ross, Westhill needs quarterback Mike DeCarr to be a worthy successor to Dan Fetter.