RICHMOND - Edison coach Mike McKenzie feels if his team does one thing better this season, it can improve on last year's disappointing 3-7 record.
"We're preaching finishing," McKenzie said. "We don't feel we finished well last year and two years ago we did. It's something we talked about with our kids.
"We need to finish a rep, a play, and a game if we want to be successful this season."
After examining last season's game film, McKenzie and his staff concluded the problem was a correctable one.
"We really want to try to be in better shape than people and try to play fast," McKenzie said. "Last year in Weeks 1 and 2 we weren't in shape. We went back and examined why and we didn't change our conditioning from two years ago when we were in pretty good shape and wore teams down. We saw we needed to adjust it this year.
"Conditioning hurt us last year against Oak Glen, losing 29-28, and we carried a bunch of kids off the field with cramps. A lot more than than it seemed. I think that was the difference in the game. Same thing with Wheeling Central. We played well for a quarter and then I felt like, same thing, we were carting kids off with cramps. We did better the second part of the first half of the season, but in the second half I just felt like we collapsed conditioning-wise and we couldn't finish.
"Our kids were good kids and our seniors worked hard, but it was like we got in games and just didn't believe at the end. Like against Bellaire where we were up 27-13 entering the fourth quarter and lose. We want to be in better shape this year. We've worked hard on that."
Edison's offense will be fronted by junior quarterback Nolan Marcus. McKenzie feels Marcus is a solid threat to both run and pass.
"He's probably a little more of a mix of the both (2011 quarterback) Mark (Smyth) and (2010 quarterback) Jonny (Byers)," McKenzie said. "Jonny was a good runner. He threw the ball decent, but Mark probably had a bigger arm and was more of a passer than Jonny was.
"I think Nolan has a good bit of both of those qualities. He runs the ball pretty well, and he sees things real well as far as throwing the ball. His arm isn't as strong as Mark's, but he sees pretty well. He makes good reads and puts touch on the ball.
Junior Josh Pasek and sophomore Collin Skeeles will back Marcus up at quarterback.
"At running back and wide receiver, we feel pretty good," McKenzie said. "I like our depth. I feel like we have kids that can rotate in.
"Last year we didn't feel like we could rotate as much as we wanted to, but I feel like we can this year."
Starting tailback Chris Graziani saw meaningful snaps last year and McKenzie believes he can be a big weapon for his team this season if he plays within himself.
"Graziani played a fair amount last year and he looks like a man-child this year," McKenzie said. "He's fast and we just need to get him under control because sometimes he plays a little too fast."
Seeing time behind Graziani will be Pasek and sophomore Ethan Shannon.
Edison may come out of its spread formation more this season due to a pair of quality fullbacks on the roster.
"We have (Jevin) Leggett and (Brendan) Powley at fullback so we'll be in the I a lot more than in the past," McKenzie said. "We're going to try to be in the I, not only in short yardage, but on first-and-10."
The Wildcats are forced to replace big-play threat Kyle Minger at receiver due to graduation, but McKenzie like what he sees from this year's crop.
"Honestly I think we'll be more like we were two years ago,'' he said. "Two years ago we had a bunch of good receivers. Our top receivers led the team with like 22 to 28 catches. With us being a spread team that isn't huge, but we had the receivers to spread it out that year.
"We had like 15 kids make catches. I think we'll be more like that year. People game planned for 'Ming' because he was our go-to guy, but I don't think they'll be able to do that this year which I like better. I think we'll be able to spread it around and make everyone a threat."
McKenzie, who likes to rotate eight at wideout, has seniors Chris Virtue and Jacob Ross along with junior Rich Springer notched as starters. Senior Trevor Murray, Jason Hughes, Thomas Riley, and Cole Wargo are pushing for time as well as juniors Hunter Sweat, Devan Tennant, and J.T. Arnold. Sophomore Carter Andreozzi is also in the mix here.
Expect to see Pasek line up at receiver as well as tailback because of his speed.
"Pasek will see time at both receiver and running back," McKenzie said. We want to utilize his speed so we'll line him up in different spots. He could be a big weapon for us."
Murray will man the tight end spot when one is utilized.
The offensive line returns three starters including senior guard Dylan Glasure who returns for his third year as starter.
The other guard will be second-year starter senior Shane Board. Junior Matt Coppa is in the mix for playing time as well.
The third returning starter, senior tackle Bradley Harris, looks to be joined by junior Dustin Huggins.
Senior Mitch Bake is slotted to start at center with junior Tyler Stagani pushing for time.
Senior Justin Matthews will provide needed depth to the offensive line.
"At offensive line we should be pretty strong," McKenzie said. "We're worried about depth there.
"Right now we're a little worried about injuries. We're a little frustrated the past couple days because of some things here and there. If we stay healthy we should be pretty good."
There will be a new look defensively for the Wildcats, who have changed their base from a 30 to a 40 to adjust to their personnel.
"I think we have a pretty good defensive line," McKenzie said. "That's pretty much why we went to a 40. It was a personnel decision.
"Our linebackers are good too. They're adjusting to different reads now. Our biggest thing is to get some experience in the secondary. That's where we're most inexperienced because we lost all three of our starters from last year. We think they'll be good, it's just a matter of getting them some experience back there.
"We have some adjustments of our 40 to adjust to spread teams. We won't run our 30 package from last season, but with our defense we have a 30 package we've been working on during the spring and summer. When we do face a spread team, we can put in a 30 that marries well with our 40 so we're not learning a lot of new techniques. We're not changing our reads and whatnot."
Logging time at defensive tackle will be Board, Glasure, and Harris.
The defensive ends will be Bake, linebacker transplant Graziani, Murray, and Wargo.
Much like at receiver, McKenzie prefers to rotate a lot of fresh players on his D-line so Stagani, Matthews, Coppa, and Huggins could all see time as across the defensive front as well.
Powley and Shannon are slotted to start at inside linebacker with Wells and Leggett in the mix as well.
Ross looks to start at outside linebacker with Murray possibly moving here from end to start as well. Riley, Sweat and Tennant are all pushing to see action.
Virtue will start at free safety with Springer manning one of the corners. Andreozzi, Hughes, and Arnold are all battling for a spot at the other corner. Marcus could see time at corner as well, though McKenzie doesn't plan to start his quarterback on defense.