When Matt Heiser walked through the door as the new head coach of the Gettysburg High football program for the first time in early June, he knew his team would be in for a lot of work in a short period of time.
He planned to completely revamp the offense.
Heiser, who runs a Wing-T formation on offense, would have to convert the Warriors from the spread offense they employed in 2011.
Coming off a 2-8 campaign, and having lost the starting quarterback (Chase Whiteman), top receiver (Benttion Hendricks) and top running back (Jordan Stouch) to graduation, it wasn't surprising the Warriors struggled to an 0-4 start in 2012, while being outscored by a combined 197-24 by South Western, Mechanicsburg, Chambersburg and Greencastle-Antrim. The first three of them all qualified for the District 3 Class AAAA playoffs.
"You don't want to think about it or make excuses," Heiser said of having a shortened offseason with his new team. "But it's about familiarity, putting a coaching staff together and getting to know the kids.
"At first, I didn't even know most of the kids' names. I knew them by their number."
In Week 5, things started to turn for the better as Gettysburg took down Waynesboro, 19-14, including a goal line stand in the last two minutes to hold on for the victory.
That started a run in which the Warriors would win three of their next four contests, as the defense showed marked improvement. A 41-0 loss to Northern was followed by wins over Big Spring, 14-7, and over James Buchanan, 24-14.
"The key to our season was getting that first win against Waynesboro," Heiser said. "We got some guys back from injury and that allowed us to run the offense and defense that we wanted to run.
"The kids did a good job of getting better as the year went along. It took a while, but they worked very hard all year."
Week 9 brought about a tough challenge as Gettysburg welcomed West Perry, which qualified for the Class AAA tournament, and the Warriors took a 12-7 lead to the locker room before being unable to get off the field defensively in the second half and losing, 28-12.
Gettysburg wrapped up its season with a 35-6 loss on the road at Shippensburg, but managed to stay in that game for the first 22 minutes before the Greyhounds struck for a score late in the first half to open up a 14-point halftime lead.
Shippensburg head coach Eric Foust came away impressed with what he saw from the Warriors that night.
"That's not the same team that I saw on film from early in the season," Foust remarked. "They are a much better team now than they were then."
The fact the Warriors' three wins all came by 10 points or fewer was not lost on Heiser, as he preaches to his team about playing hard all the way to the end and regardless of the score.
"As long as there's time on the clock, there's always hope. And that goes both ways," he said. "Our kids showed a lot of heart when they could've thrown in the towel. They kept competing, even when they got in a big hole."
The former 10-year head coach at Boiling Springs would not put a number on the wins he expects from his team in 2013, but he will have four starters back on offense -- quarterback Jesse Stouch and three offensive linemen -- along with six starters back on defense.
In addition, he will have a full offseason to get them ready.
"We're already in the weight room testing and getting ready for next year," he said. "There's a lot of excitement around the program."