The Baylor Red Raiders advanced to the championship game of the Division II football playoffs the last two years, only to come up short both times against Ensworth.
The Red Raiders had another impressive record in 2011 by winning 11 of 13 games, but nobody wearing the red and gray will be satisfied until they win another state title.
Baylor graduated a bunch of outstanding players a year ago and there are some key positions where newer players will see plenty of action, but there are also some outstanding veterans who are back and want to win as much as anyone.
Reggie Upshaw and Colton Jumper are just two of those players.
Upshaw is a lanky 6-7 receiver who has outstanding leaping ability and can make great catches in tough situations. He tips the scales at 210 pounds and looks underweight, but he's quick and he's sure to make a difference for the Red Raider offense.
Jumper is a 6-3, 220-pound linebacker whose motor runs wide open all the time. He's gained 20 pounds in the past year, but that hasn't hindered his quickness and unique ability to roam from sideline to sideline with reckless abandon.
Upshaw will play on offense mainly, but will be used as a defensive tackle in key third-down situations where his long arms and physical presence will surely cause problems for an opposing quarterback needing to complete a pass.
Jumper's claim will be on defense, but like Upshaw, will be used on offense at times at fullback and even a tight end in goalline situations.
Both are eager to play where they're needed and willing to do what's necessary to help their teammates win every time they step onto the field.
"Defensively, Colton has to step up and be our physical leader as well as a vocal leader," said Baylor head coach Phil Massey when asked about his three-year starter who recorded 59 tackles last year with 27 assists. He also had five sacks, nine tackles for losses and he caused two fumbles.
"He has great game experience, but first and foremost is his athletic ability. He's our only starter back in the front seven, but he knows what to expect. He has to be our coach on the field," Massey continued.
"Colton is a likable kid who's gained some weight and kept his speed. He's also gotten a lot stronger," the coach nodded.
"Reggie has a great attitude and we're going to try him as a pass rusher on some third-down situations. He's a team player who is willing to accept any role we pass his way.
"His size at the high-school level is unusual as it's a mismatch with him against defensive backs. He has excellent hands and a vertical leap of almost 34 inches. He's going to step up," Massey added.
"Opposing defenses will be aware of where he is and he will be double-teamed a lot, but that will create a lot of opportunities for other players around him. We have to put our best players on the field to be successful and these two are some of the best we have," the coach concluded.
"I think we'll be more of a passing team this year and I'm excited about that," Upshaw said before a recent morning practice.
"I love basketball, but football is one of my favorite sports too. It will be different playing as a pass rusher, but I just want to be a leader on the field. And when we need a first down on offense, I want the ball in my hands.
"When we're in the Red Zone, I'm confident that I can outjump anyone on the field," Upshaw added.
Jumper was a quarterback up until his sophomore year and that's why he wears jersey number 16. It's safe to say that he prefers playing defense these days.
"I like to hit and I like being physical. We have a lot of experience in our defensive secondary, but some younger guys up front. I feel like I can play any position.
"I don't want to lose at home and I'm hoping to make all state again. And obviously, we won't be happy until we get a championship ring.
"My teammates need for me to be outspoken this fall. I didn't get any interception last year, so hopefully I can get one this fall. I can't wait to get started," Jumper concluded.
Baylor's season opens Friday at Soddy Daisy while the first home game will be a non-district affair with Bradley on Aug. 24.
A home game on Aug. 31 against Father Ryan begins their region schedule and will be followed by games against MBA, Ensworth, McCallie and Brentwood Academy in September.
The regular season concludes the last three Fridays in October with road games at Columbia Central, Pope John Paul II and BGA.
(Email John Hunt at email@example.com)