SUAMICO, Wis. - Bay Port lost 10 all-conference players to graduation after last season, including receiver Cordell Tinch and tight end Jack Plumb, who are now playing in the Big 10.
But the Pirates haven’t lost a Fox River Classic Conference game since October 2015, so if anything, it’s lock and reload rather than rebuild.
And the Pirates’ plan this year to keep their record 18-game conference winning streak alive is pretty simple.
"By winning every game," said junior running back Isaiah Gash. "But I’m not really looking for wins. I’m just looking for a lot of teamwork and us just working really well together. Most of the guys, we never really played on varsity together a whole lot, but now that we’re starting to all play together, we’re really starting to click together."
Head Coach Gary Westerman, who's gone 58-10 with three FRCC titles during his first six seasons with the Pirates, has been here before.
"I’m not worried about really replacing last year," Westerman said Friday. "We’re just worried about being this year’s team.
"So we’re excited. We’ll be a really young football team, talented. So our development week-to-week is going to be really important throughout the season.”
Development will continue for Gash, who is poised to be the feature back after putting up 872 yards rushing last season with 15 touchdowns.
"Obviously, Gash split time last year. Now he’s obviously going to kind of be the guy," Westerman said. "So looking forward to that, as well as that offensive line, with Braden Doyle and Ty Dorvinen coming back on that side."
The Pirates held a scrimmage against Fond du Lac Friday morning. The goal, according to Gash was to be "aggressive, be physical, work together as a team and just go out there and show them we can put our heads out with other top schools in the state."
The scoreboard didn't matter as much to Bay Port as the gains this young team could make in live reps against another team.
"Not interested in winning a scrimmage, just interested in our guys winning their physical battles, you know?" Westerman said. "So we really need to have a few guys step up, show that they can get the job done on a snap-to-snap basis, and so it’s not about scoring touchdowns and winning the scrimmage. It’s about getting to continue to develop our younger players and get them the experience they need."
"I mean all 11 guys are really stepping up to the plate, and our starters are really starting to show up but also our backup guys are also stepping up, too," said Gash.
It'll be all hands on deck for the Pirates once the season opens Thursday. The Pirates' first three weeks features contests against Sheboygan North, Sheboygan South and Manitowoc, schools that combined for a 3-24 record last season. All three also lost to Bay Port last season with a 180-20 margin. But that history doesn't matter to a team that's preparing to start their season on the right note.
"You know, football especially, you only get nine games and so I know our kids are really excited for the scrimmage today playing against another opponent and really excited to take the field at home next Thursday," Westerman said.