NEW MADRID -- After combining for three wins over the past two seasons, the New Madrid County Eagles will enter the 2012 season as a team looking to turn the corner and get back to their winning ways.
Following a three year stretch where the Eagles were annual Class 3 contenders and compiled a 28-9 record, NMCC has suffered through a two year drought where graduation has took it's toll.
Those losses left the Eagles forced to start inexperienced underclassmen, leading to a 2-7 campaign in 2010 before finishing at 1-9 last year.
While expectations may not be as high as they were three or four years ago, the Eagles are looking to show the frustrations of last year, and the experiences that came with it, have left them a better team.
"Hopefully another year of experience, being a little older and in the weight room is going to pay off for us a little bit," NMCC head coach Arlen Pixley said. "We're excited about our kids, who have been working extremely hard in camp. Our numbers are up a little bit and right now I think we're at 14 seniors."
Those 14 seniors, along with 12 juniors, give the Eagles a solid core of upperclassmen that have seen their fair share of playing time over the last few years.
Pixley hopes those seasoned veterans, and a crop of talented young players, can blend together to help an offense that combined for only 53 points last season.
"We finally have some kids who have been in there and played for four years," Pixley said. "We're excited about them and real excited about some sophomores that we have. They actually got thrown in the fire, so to speak, late in the season.
"They've been working tremendously hard and they've been doing everything the coaches have asked of them so far."
After spreading the snaps between the likes of Austin Lynn, Corey Guest and Jimmy Ash last season, NMCC will turn to senior Jashawn McDaniel to start the season at quarterback.
No stranger to the backfield, McDaniel spent last season as one of NMCC's starting running backs while also taking snaps as a fullback and at linebacker.
"He came into camp and wanted to try quarterback out," Pixley said. "He knows the offense, he's got a good grasp of it and good arm strength and he's a little more accurate right now."
McDaniels said he likes the way the teams is heading and is expecting a better performance for the Eagles' offense this year.
"We feel good," he said. "Our line is getting better, our receivers are catching the ball and running backs are running hard.
"We're learning from our mistakes now."
Though taking control under center, at least to start the season, will leave McDaniel spending less time at running back, Pixley thinks the position will still be one of the Eagles strengths.
"(McDaniel) did a nice job for us, but I don't know if he was a feature back," Pixley said. "We had to feature him due to some injuries and stuff like that. We really like a stable of sophomore guys that we got, including Melik Stevenson, Mikeal Walker and TJ Clark. People will learn their names pretty quick and we have some seniors in there too with Jashawn, Damien Glispie and Cory Guest. Those guys have a little bit of experience and they'll share that with those young guys. Those young guys they played a little bit down the stretch for us last year."
At receiver, Pixley said his team should have a little bit more height this year and some better hands with seniors Jimmy Caldwell and Devon Harrell as notable starters at the position.
If there's one spot where inexperience might rear its head, Pixley said, is defense where the Eagles lost D.K. Wilson, a first team lineman on last year's All-Standard Democrat team, to graduation.
"We have some guys that are new on defense," said Pixley. "We had some guys that we lost to graduation that we have their spots. We're still a little inexperienced there, but I think we could potentially be a lot better than we were last year."
NMCC, will open their season against Malden on the road this Friday.