After losing 12 seniors from last season, the Lee High varsity football team will start three sophomores and one freshman at its first game on Thursday against Marshall.
"We lost a lot of fire power last year," said head coach Clarence Martin. "We lost four of our top players."
Starting senior quarterback John Rodgers began the 2011 season as the first string wide receiver, but was injured during the first game and missed the rest of the season.
"This year he has done everything it takes to be a legitimate quarterback in this region," said Coach Martin. "He's been to camps, he has personal trainers working on his throwing and his footwork. He's definitely made huge strides, and he's definitely ready to lead us this year. He's been on varsity since he was an eighth grader."
Returning this year as a junior is runningback Michael Jolly who rushed for about 900 yards and scored eight touchdowns as a sophomore in the 2011 season. Coach Martin believes he is the top runningback in the region, but he has been under the radar in the past due to a pass-first offense.
"He is a very explosive kid, very fast, very dynamic and a great athlete," said Martin. "We have high expectations for him. He's going to be a really good football player."
Also returning to the Lancers as a senior is left tackle Zacky Fazelyar who is already being recruited by colleges. Martin said the coaches are "looking forward to him anchoring the offensive line."
Demond Richeson, a runningback and part-time slot receiver, will return as a senior after missing the 2011 season due to academic probation. "He's very quick, very explosive. He can catch the ball and run the ball. He can do a lot of things for us," said Martin.
Junior receiver Connor Schoske, who started in the last game of the 2011 season, has been working hard over the summer to get "faster, bigger and stronger," said Martin. He's expected to get a lot of attention this season due to his size and abilities.
On the defensive side, linebackers J.B. Cho and Seth Chisolm-Mara, both seniors, will return as starters this year. Martin said, "Those are two pretty tough, hard-nosed defenders, and they're going to help us up front in the box."
Other players that Martin is expecting to stand out this season are nose tackle Danyal Sahi, defensive end Michael Choi, strong safety Robert Adams and starting free safety Jonathan Walters.
At around 6-foot-1 and weighing 200 pounds, newcomer Walters "can run, can jump, can do it all, and he's only a sophomore," said Martin.
As one of two Division 5 teams in a Divison 6 district, Martin said the Lancers might be seen as an underdog, but he believes his team has just as much talent as any other team in the Patriot district.
Despite being a young and inexperienced team, Martin said, "I think we have a chance to compete for the district championship."
Every game will be important to the Lancers this season, but Martin said he expects the Lake Braddock and West Springfield games to be big. Lake Braddock will have a new team this year and West Springfield is Lee's crosstown rival.
"We're gonna play hard every Friday night, and we're gonna play until the last whistle."