It all looked so promising when the Jordan-Elbridge football team shut out Tully 14-0 to open the 2008 season. At last, the Eagles had reason to think that promise and potential could transform itself into positive results.
Then Zach Frost, the team's quarterback, broke his clavicle in the team's third game, a loss to Cato-Meridian. Instantly, the Eagles became a one-dimensional offensive unit, entirely dependent on star tailback Mitch Merrill.
Frost's untimely departure, combined with several other injuries, plus illness, ruined J-E's chances, and it didn't win the rest of the regular season.
Everyone has healed now, though, and it gives the Eagles a reason to think that 2009 will be different, with an expanded playoffs (16 teams, instead of eight), a regular season shortened to six games and just four games in the Class C West league to negotiate through.
"With less teams (in the league), it becomes more competitive," head coach Pat Smart said. "Not until the last week of the regular season will everything be figured out. It will be exciting. There will be something to shoot for (at season's end), which is different."
What remains the same for the Eagles is that, lacking a JV roster, it will get to choose from a larger pool of players, as 48 came out for the first day of practice on Aug. 17.
None will be more important than Frost, fully healed and ready to tackle his senior campaign. At 5-11 and 165 pounds, Frost possesses a strong arm, aided by his years as the ace of J-E's baseball team, and by throwing the ball, he restores the Eagles' offensive balance.
Smart said that replacing Merrill, J-E's all-time leading rusher (he went past 1,000 yards last fall), won't be a one-man job. The Eagles will spread the carries between Nick Berwind, Preston Bishop and Leland Holmes, assuring that no single back will have to do too much.