The New Oxford High football team entered this season with a simple motto: "Brick by brick." First-year head coach Jason Thurston wanted the Colonials to build a foundation for future seasons.
The Colonials finished 4-6, doubling their win total from last season and earning their most since winning five in 2009. Their success stemmed from reducing penalties and increasing their turnover margin, two things Thurston stressed before the season.
"Considering where we started and (what we) had coming back," he said, "I think we overachieved."
New Oxford struggled over its first three games, which included a 56-19 win against James Buchanan, which allowed more than 45 points per game and scored fewer than 14, but also shutout losses to Bermudian Springs and Waynesboro.
Thurston decided to reduce the number of plays the Colonials ran in an effort to execute them better. They went 3-2 in YAIAA Division II play at the end of the season, and he believes the Colonials will be able to handle a full playbook next season.
"I think they got a lot of confidence as the season went on," Thurston said. "I think it was a successful year. Four-and-6 is not successful, in my opinion. We're not where we want to be, but we have the nose pointing in the right direction."
The Colonials returned just one starter from last season's team -- senior Nick Slusser, who rushed for 504 yards.
The list of returners for next season begins with junior running back Wesley Beans, who finished with a team-high 640 rushing yards.
Anthony Lippy returns at quarterback after an uneven season that included a 50-of-126 (39.7 percent) line with 670 yards and six touchdowns against six interceptions.
"I think, for Anthony, it was a season where he took one step back and two steps forward," Thurston said. "He improved a lot.
"I'd like to see him do a better job with stepping up in the pocket. That's his goal for this year. When he felt pressure, he tried to get outside. He made the negative plays worse at times."
West York and Northeastern, the two teams that finished ahead of the Colonials in the division, lose plenty of seniors. If the younger players continue to develop and fully grasp the entire playbook, the Colonials could compete for a division title.
But the future starts with offseason workouts.
"Truthfully, we didn't have the offseason commitment (last offseason) I was hoping for," Thurston said. "I think the biggest thing that has to happen is they have to buy into the offseason. They have to put time in. If they do, I think that we're in the right place.
"They're really excited to get into the offseason. The players, the coaches, the school, the administration, they're very pleased with what we did and the direction we're heading toward. We're hoping to raise the bar higher next year. We started to see a very small change in the culture."
email@example.com; 717-637-3736, extension 139; Twitter: @DanielPaulling