Although the numbers for the Raiders have been down, Widner insisted the experience returning to this fall’s team is what will make it special.
Shenandoah’s core will include two running backs who each gained 1,000 yards last season. The men blocking for them will also be a strong force, with both offensive guards, the center and an offensive tackle returning to the offensive line.
On the other side of the ball, Widner will have eight experienced players returning.
As in the past, Widner hopes to be able to rely on the Raiders’ running game to carry the team deep into the postseason, but the key to a successful season, he said, will be developing a defense that can defend exactly what his offense is good at.
“Something we’ve worked on in the offseason, all winter with the coaches and in the spring and summer with the kids, is our run defense,” Widner said. “We’ve really spent a lot of time and energy to that. I hope that improves as well. I think our key at our level is being able to run the ball and being able to stop the run.”
Widner wasn’t quite ready to put a win total out there before the season started, but he added that now that his team knows what it takes to make it to the regional round and taste defeat, he hopes they work even harder to make it back and beyond.
“It’s hard to tell what people have until we get going, and it’s hard to tell what team we have until we get going,” he said. “We’ve got an idea of what we’ll be like, but you really just aren’t sure.
“We’re just going to pound it out one at a time and try to improve each time we get on the field, and hopefully if we do that, everything else will take care of itself.”