LA CROSSE, Wisconsin (WXOW) -- The strong just keep getting stronger. Defending Mississippi Valley Conference football champ Central plans to build on an 8-2 season with a big senior class in 2013 and bigger expectations.
Third-year head coach Tony Servais said, "We're expecting all 27 of those guys to participate in some way to help us. Obviously the juniors and sophomores have to step in a little bit too."
Servais added the Red Raiders' depth will be key to winning games late in a tough schedule. Their versatility, meanwhile, allowed for a faster start.
"Last year we kind of set our foundation with these guys," said Servais.
"We're light-years ahead of where we were last year at this time," said senior DB/RB Mitchell Johnson. "That's real exciting on the offensive side of the ball. With the defense we're just picking up right where we left off."
While injuries have already claimed character players like senior Ben Faga for the season, if anything, Central's added to their arsenal. Mitchell Johnson showed his ability on Tuesday to take on different roles on both sides of the ball, while a new weapon in senior Monona Grove transfer Lamont Murphy should pack an unexpected punch for opponents.
Senior WR/S Max Hether said, "[With Murphy] they won't even know what's happening."
"We're real excited," added Johnson. "He's just another extension of us. He's picked up stuff real quick. I think he'll be a huge asset."
Players and coaches agreed that Murphy and the younger players alike already mesh well with the established team dynamic.
Hether said, "It'll help a lot because we'll be able to get on each other without anyone taking it too personally."
That, they said, makes it easier to focus more quickly on the finishing touches.
"Right now we're focusing on our passing game, trying to get a little more efficient there," Servais said. "That was one of the areas of concern we had at the end of last year. We just weren't efficient throwing the ball. We want to focus on that in the three days without pads."
"We're not walking through stuff, we're going through it faster and faster. Speed, speed, speed is kind of our motto here," said Johnson.
The speed, strength and surprise could leave the rest of the MVC searching for Central's weakness.
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