The goal for the Stoughton High football team is simple this season: "Make the playoffs," senior captain Mike Connelly said.
"[We want to] go all the way. I think we have the potential to," added fellow senior captain Adam Leonard.
Led by a talented and determined group of seniors, the Black Knights will look to do just that - make a deep playoff run.
The Black Knights at 6-5 and 3-1 in the Hockomock's Davenport (small schools) Division. It was their first winning season since 2006, with the team just missing out on a playoff berth.
The Davenport Division champion advances to the MIAA Division 3 playoffs.
Head Coach Greg Burke said he is taking a "one game at a time" approach, however.
"I'm not talking playoffs. Every game is a championship game," he said. "If we play well we have as good a shot as any in the [Davenport] Division.
Last season's record: 6-5 (3-1 in the Davenport Division)
First game: Stoughton opens its season Friday, September 7 at Holliston in a .
Head Coach: Greg Burke (20th season)
Captains: Seniors Adam Leonard, Mike Connelly, Aaron Mack, Andrew Kelly
"Those kids are terrific. They are great role models; great leaders," Burke said of his captains. "They lead by example."
Burning Question: Who starts at quarterback?
Last season the Black Knights rotated three quarterbacks. Alex Fernandes took the majority of the snaps with Aaron Calixte and Dan Eckler also seeing significant action. Fernandes graduated and Calxite, who would have been a senior, transferred to a prep school in Maine for basketball, so Eckler is the only returning signal caller.
There is no planned rotation this year - Eckler is the starter in 2012.
Burke praised the experienced Eckler for playing tough and smart and "getting things done."
Burning Question II: Who replaces standout interior defensive linemen Brandon Alves (a Shriners all-star) and Andrew Paredes? Both graduate with the class of 2012.
Burke said while no one can match the level of play from Alves and Paredes, he feels the team has more depth at that position this year.
Outlook: After falling just short of the playoffs in 2011, . Both ESPN Boston and the Boston Herald pick Stoughton as favorites in the Davenport Division, favoring the Black Knights over last season's Davenport champions, the Oliver Ames Tigers.
Other than the offensive line, the team has a lot of experience, Burke said. Stoughton has a particularly strong offensive backfield, led by Aaron Mack, Frankie Morris, Marcus Middleton and Malachi Baugh.
Mack, on Thanksgiving last year at Canton, had 13 total scores in 2011. He had both the longest (88) and longest (85) in the Hockomock League last season.
Leonard says one of the team's biggest strengths is its speed. He also points to talent in the offensive and defensive backfield.
"The key is staying healthy," Burke said. Conditioning is key in preventing injuries, the coach said, and he feels the team is in good physical shape.
Schedule: Following the season opener at Holliston, Stoughton also plays at Taunton (September 14); Pembroke (September 21); Mansfield (September 28); Foxboro (October 5); at North Attleboro* (October 12); at Sharon (October 19); at Oliver Ames (October 26); Attleboro (November 2); at Bridgewater-Raynham (November 9); and against Canton (Thanksgiving, November 22).
The outcome of Davenport Division games against Foxboro, Sharon, Oliver Ames and Canton will determine Stoughton's playoff fate.