The offensive line is inexperienced and the defense will be younger.
But this is Burke County, where lopsided wins are often a weekly occurrence and playoff runs an annual event.
Since coach Eric Parker took over in 2007, the Bears have gone 59-17. And the program is only getting better, with a 36-6 mark the past three seasons, including a state title in 2011.
The optimism this year starts with quarterback Donquell Green, a do-it-all senior capable of big things even on broken plays. He had more than 3,000 yards of offense as a junior and had an impact on special teams and defense, too.
Though the offensive line is young, it has potential, and talented players like Green, Reginald Grubbs and backup quarterback Antonio Harold, among others, will be searching for spaces.
“We do a lot in the open field,” Green said. “We got a lot of playmakers around the ball with speed. We just get them the ball in the open field and see what they do with it.”
With an explosive offense, the Bears should remain a force in region play, as Burke County hasn’t lost a region game since Oct. 23, 2009, to Washington County. That run has given the Bears a No. 1 seed in the state playoffs three years in a row.
The defense also will have a youth movement in key spots with linebacker Chris Washington gone, but early games against Thomson and Coffee in the nonregion schedule will have the Bears tested come playoff time.
Even with a young team, Parker’s players know what is expected. Despite some question marks, Burke County should be grabbing a No. 1 seed for the playoffs.
“We try to be solid with our kids, even at the lower level. They come up through the system,” Parker said. “The biggest thing is, the kids have fun and believe in it.”