NEW MADRID -- With so many of the play makers that have made the past three years so successful for New Madrid County Central graduating in May, the Eagles enter the 2010-11 season a young team needing some fresh faces to fill those voids.
"It's pretty brand new," NMCC head coach Arlen Pixley said. "We have to replace a lot of the players that we've had that's been on the football field as starters the last three years.
"It's going to be a constant evaluation. It's going to take us a while to find some chemistry. We have some guys working hard that are hopefully going to make that happen for us a little quicker."
When you look at what the Eagles are losing in last season's senior squad, two of the more obvious names that come to mind are Rodney Anderson and Kony Ealy.
In Anderson, NMCC had a running back/wide receiver who rushed for 654 yards and four touchdowns last season while also catching 15 passes for 259 yards and seven touchdowns.
Ealy was a wrecking force at defensive end, coming in with 104 tackles and 12.5 sacks last while also intercepting two passes, blocking four kicks, forcing five fumbles and scoring two touchdowns.
The pair were both Class 3, Missouri Coaches All-State selections with Anderson signing to play football at Lindenwood University and Ealy with the University of Missouri.
Last season's senior class also included three other SEMO Central All-Conference players in center Thorne Smith and linebackers DeAdrian Grissom and Austin Meese.
"You can't replace those guys," Pixley said of last year's senior class. "Those guys had been to the quarterfinals for three straight years.
"They knew about championships and figured out a lot about winning and had worked together as a group for many, many years up to that point. So you don't replace those guys. Just scheme wise we have to change some things and match up personnel. Try to make up for the slack."
In all, the Eagles put together a 28-9 record the past three years, finishing last season at 9-4, ending the year with a 35-12 loss to Priory in the Class 3, quarterfinals.
Although the above mentioned personnel losses are sure to be felt in the coming season, NMCC will not be without playmakers, as the Eagles bring back their biggest offensive weapon from last year in senior G'Darius Stevenson.
Originally a running back, Stevenson switched to quarterback at the start of last season when Dontre Jenkins suffered an ankle injury.
Stevenson went on to rush for 2,203 yards on on 210 attempts while scoring 30 touchdowns. In the passing game, Stevenson threw for another 750 yards and 13 touchdowns to bring his total yardage to 2,953 yards. In all, Stevenson accounted for 310 points for the Eagles.
"G'Darius Stevenson could be anybody in Southeast Missouri's leader," Pixley said. "He's really been great. I say this all the time about our good ones, he comes in early, stays late. He's jovial, very enthusiastic. Great sense of humor. He's what you want (in a leader.)"
Two other SEMO Central All-Conference players will also be back in defensive backs Jamareia Jones and LaMonte Nelson.
And though the cast may change from year-to-year, Pixley said you can still expect the same style of NMCC football when this season opens up.
"It's the same thing we preach here all the time," he said. "It's going to be attitude and enthusiasm. We have to be the best blockers and the best tacklers. It's a real simple equation. We have to be physical with people. That's something I'm not really pleased with right now with where we're at."
"But our forte always had been here whenever you step on the field with a New Madrid County Central team we want to know you had at least had a nice physical contest. And we're not there yet. We will get there. We'll finds the ones that will get there."
NMCC will open off their season this Friday when they travel to Cape Girardeau to take on the Cape Central Tigers at 7 p.m. After last year's 38-35 win, the Eagles now hold a four-game winning over the Tigers, who finished last season 0-10.