The new era began in a figurative sense on Monday, if not quite a literal one.
In most practical forms, after all, the coaching transition for the South Western football team had taken place long before Monday -- the first day fall scholastic sports teams across Pennsylvania could begin practice. New Mustangs coach Damian Poalucci spent 15 years with the program before taking over for 26-year head coach Don Seidenstricker in the winter. Poalucci's relationships with South Western's returning players were already built in.
Still, it was an unfamiliar site -- a South Western football season beginning without Seidenstricker at the helm. The Mustangs players circling around a new leader following Monday afternoon's practice, as Poalucci delivered a few parting words of motivation.
"It's a big transition from Don as a coach. I mean, Don was an icon," South Western senior quarterback Mike Duffy said Monday. "But Coach Poalucci, he's done amazing so far. He had all the respect coming in."
As so another season officially began, with the Mustangs taking on a business-as-usual air as they try to defend last year's YAIAA Division I title.
For Poalucci, it was his first live look at a team that must replace a large senior class -- one led by versatile playmaker Mike Felton, now at Temple. But Poalucci, a former quarterback at East Stroudsburg, took encouragement from the program's summer workouts, which saw between 40 and 50 players attend thrice-weekly weight lifting sessions.
"We've had a great summer," Poalucci said. "The intensity needs to pick up a little bit, but that goes with the territory."
"Ever since (Poalucci) came in, he had everybody working out right after the season," Duffy added. "We were never going to use losing Felton and losing Coach Seidenstricker as an excuse. As a team, we're going to perform. And we're going to be successful."
South Western enters a Division I picture that -- once again -- betrays no clear-cut favorite. Central York, Dallastown and Red Lion all feature plenty of promise, but also question marks. William Penn and Spring Grove will try to improve on two- and one-win campaigns, respectively.
And the Mustangs? They return 1,000-yard rusher Dillon Thomas and two potential starters at quarterback in Duffy and junior Tyler Sterner. But they must also paper over the void left by 24 departed seniors.
At YAIAA media day last week, Dallastown coach Kevin Myers called the division "anyone's ballgame."
"It's definitely different than it was eight, 10 years ago," Myers said. "You pretty much knew Central and South Western were going to be in the running. Then every so often you'd have another team. When we started, we were the doormat.
"Now, you can't leave anybody off the table."
All of which should make for an interesting five weeks of divisional play in October and November.
For now, each practice acts as a sort of cram session. Opening night is less than three weeks away. The Mustangs sped through their afternoon workout Monday -- during one offensive period, they ran 35 plays in a span of 20 minutes.
And while the faces might have changed from this time last season -- the iconic Seidenstricker giving way to his younger protg -- the two coaches did share at least one thing in common.
"I lost my voice a little bit like Don this morning," Poalucci said. "I started squeaking. I wasn't even yelling that much."