LANSING | T.F. South seniors Sammy Kessler and Saleem Sanford said they and their teammates would just as soon forget about last year.
At the same time, last year is a reminder to them about what can happen.
The Rebels finished 4-5 and missed the playoffs for just the second time in 14 years. They did finish strong with three wins and both said that is what they want to build off of as they went through the first official day of practice Wednesday.
"As seniors, we have to stay focused and make sure the younger kids stay focused," Sanford said. "We have to provide that senior leadership. I know the younger kids look up to me because I am a senior and my job is to do things right and work hard so they can follow that example."
Kessler said the team worked hard during the summer and they are optimistic, but also cautious going into this season.
"Our job is to be prepared for every opponent and as seniors, we have to do what is expected," Kessler said. "It is everyone on the same page and not being selfish, but thinking what is best for the team first."
Rebels coach Tom Padjen, who is beginning his 36th year at his prep alma mater, said he likes what he has seen over the summer.
"We had a good first day of practice, though you are limited," Padjen said. "Our kids know what is expected and they put in a lot of hard work in the summer.
"The one thing that will be a key is senior leadership."
Two years ago, South had it when it went 8-1 in the regular season and made it to the second round of the Class 6A playoffs. Sanford also said little things will make a difference.
"Last year, a lot of things happened to us in games and we didn't know how to react," Sanford said. "Maybe we were not as serious and before you know it, those little things added up to losses.
"I know we will be prepared this year."
T.F. South opens its season Aug. 17 at Crete-Monee and both know it is a tall task.
"Last year, we fumbled and that was the end for us," Kessler said. "We kind of gave up right there. We can't give up just because something doesn't go our way. We have to be prepared."