A year ago, expectations surrounding the Rainier Mountaineer football were less than ambitious.
"We were just hoping not to go winless," said Anthony Hicks, Rainer's coach and former All-American running back at Pacific Lutheran University.
Rather than winless, the Mountaineers won six games, surprising a community that's grown used to losing. The team finished 3-7 the year prior to Hicks' arrival last season, his first year as head coach.
With 15 starters back - eight on offense and seven on defense - expectations are soaring after finishing 6-4 last season. But Hicks isn't predicting any league titles.
Never miss a local story.
"We don't set goals about how many games we're going to win," said Hicks, a 1993 Tumwater High School graduate who played two years at Washington. "Our No. 1 goal is to be the No. 1 offense in the state. We can control that. We can't control how many games we win."
Rainier looks like it could be able to put some points on the scoreboard. Kyle Lyon is back at quarterback, Kyle North is showing improvement at running back and four of last year's five starters on the offensive line return.
Lyon, a 6-foot-2, 190-pound senior, has shown marked improvement.
"The difference is night and day since the first day of two-a-days," Hicks said. "His mechanics have improved a great deal."
North, while only 5-6 and 140 pounds, is hitting the holes harder now, making him more of a big-game threat.
"He's learning how to hit the holes harder," Hicks said.
Hicks is convinced North will have holes to run through.
"Our line is our mesh," Hicks said. "They communicate well. They block well."
Center Tyson Balser, a 6-foot, 220-pound senior, anchors that offensive line.
On defense, Ricky Mendoza, a 5-7, 180-pound senior who was first-team all-league last year, is a key as to how well the Mountaineers do. Kevin O'Leary, a 5-9 145-pound linebacker, is another key player.
When Lyon drops back to pass, he'll have some experienced wide receivers to throw to. Back are Matt Wilson, a 6-foot, 190-pound slotback, and Alex Gudgel, a 6-1 senior wide receiver.
Rainier runs the same offense as the Olympia Bears, where Hicks coached the last couple of years.
"It took a while last year for the offense to click with them," Hicks said. "It was week six before they really got it. But they really got it going."