CHARLESTON -- With the Charleston football team coming off two straight 1-9 seasons, new coach Brett Blackman is hoping this will be the year the Bluejays finally start turning things in the right direction.
"We know we're in a rebuilding year.," he said. "We talked about that with the kids. There are going to be times that we take our licks this year.
"We have a tough schedule. Those teams are very good that we're playing, but the thing that we need to see out of Charleston kids, we've got to see us take those licks and get up and continue to fight and not roll over and just take the loss. We have to fight in each and every game."
This past summer Blackman became the third Bluejay football coach in as many years. Though he has served on area football staffs since then, Blackman's last head coaching position was at East Prairie high school where he guided the Eagles to a 4-5 record during the 2003 season.
In what was surely one of their biggest obstacles coming in to the season Blackman and his staff have tackled what has been one of Charleston's biggest problems in recent years: participation.
After finishing last season with a roster that numbered in the teens, the Bluejays enter the season with 41 kids suiting up.
Even in practice Blackman said the extra numbers are paying off.
"They're doing things that they haven't done before," he said. "Last year they had barely enough to practice and this year they're going through two-and-a-half hour to three hour practices. They just didn't do that last year."
Though their season won't kick off until this Friday most Charleston players are excited about what they have seen in practice.
"The new offense is more up tempo," running back/linebacker Kamari Allmon said of the spread formation. "It's newer, not that old school I formation. It's what a lot of people run and it's more fun."
Senior offensive tackle Glenn Fennell Jr. added, "So far I'm feeling pretty good. We have a lot more players to start with compared to what we had last year. I'm just happy with the way we're looking and the way we're competing with each other right now."
While mentioning speed and the running game will be key this year, running back/linebacker Claude Armstrong said he likes where the teams headed so far.
"We're doing good," Armstrong said. "Right now we kind of have to clean a lot of stuff up, but we'll be alright. A lot of competing going on."
Charleston's first test this year will come this Friday when they open up the season at home against the the Kennett Indians. Currently the Indians hold a three-game winning streak on the Bluejays as the two open up each season squaring off against each other.
"It will be a big game," Blackman said. "Kennett is a year ahead of us. They have a new coach who's doing some things differently down there.
"He's got them on the right track. We watched old videos on them from last year and I think that it will be a good game for us. They've been working hard like we have and it should be a good contest."