For Fairfield players such as Andrew Blinn, starting his third season at inside linebacker, the love of the game is paramount.
"I've never won a high school game before, so winning can't be my only motivation," he said. "I just play because I love football."
Blinn's devotion to the gridiron has extended through 19 straight losses, including an 0-9 record in 2010, which carried a hidden blessing.
"We put a JV football team on varsity on Friday nights last year," head coach Mike Quealy said. "I'm not sure if the players understood that, but us as coaches, we knew what we were in for.
Quealy said this year's team will be bigger and stronger and, he hopes, better prepared to handle the YAIAA Division III schedule.
Filling the void: It's an unusual autumn in that the Green Knights lost a standout player but gained a whole new offense.
The graduation of Delone Catholic transfer Matthew Haines takes a team-best 26 pass receptions from the Fairfield attack, but it now switches to a completely different set, the spread option.
"We threw the Wing-T scrapbook in the trash can," Quealy said. "After 22 years (of coaching it), it was tough."
The coach said the new offense, which has no tight end and works out of a shotgun, is designed to force defenses to cover the width of the field and to create space for rushers and receivers to operate.
"It gets us to the outside more than it does the middle, which is the problem we had with the Wing-T," running back Tom Bollinger said.
The Knights will stress the run because quarterback Tre Miles moved out of the district, leaving two inexperienced quarterbacks, Dalton Carbaugh and Troy Hewitt, to battle for the starting job.
Varsity letters: Bollinger, who led the team with 425 yards last season, is one of several experienced running backs returning to the Green Knights. Another, Derek Dick, added 226 yards.
Meanwhile, Blinn returns to lead a defense that will line up in a 50-front and bid to reduce the 58 touchdowns from scrimmage opponents scored in 2010.
New face in the crowd: Quealy will be helped this season by former Waynesboro head coach Darwin Seiler, who will coach the junior high team and help Quealy over the headset on Friday nights.
"That was the best find since I've been here," Quealy said of the newest of his five assistant coaches. "He is extremely knowledgeable, extremely experienced. He's going to be a big benefit."
Mark your calendar: Like NASCAR and its Daytona 500, Fairfield might play its most important game in its 2011 debut.
The school has picked up Clear Spring, Md., located west of Hagerstown, as its season-opening rival.
"We have Clear Spring, who I believe is the closest school to our size that we're going to see all year," Quealy said. "We're excited just playing a team that is close to our size, so it will be very nice to get that one and give these kids some confidence."
Beyond that, the goals are modest.
Quealy said, "We've got to take care of our own backyard. Our ultimate goals are to get a couple of wins, to get a decent season and to get into (the District 3 Class) A playoffs."
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Running back/defensive back
Who is the one player on your team that you wouldn't want to face? It would probably be Andrew (Blinn). I've played with him pretty much all my life. He's a middle linebacker, and he can hit people pretty hard.
What practice drill do you hate the most? Sprints, probably, if that's a drill.
Which NFL player would you compare to yourself? Reggie Bush, probably.
What pregame music gets you pumped to play? Any kind of rap music.
Do you have a nickname? How did you get it? Yeah, T-Bone. I have no idea. My mom just started calling me that when I was younger.
What's your favorite move on the field? I don't have one. Not really.
What's the best thing about playing football? Well, getting to play on Friday nights with all of your teammates and stuff and winning, trying to win, having fun.
Related· 2010 preview: It's not easy being the Green Knights