HARPURSVILLE (WBNG) -- This time last year, just days before the start of the 2016 high school football season, Section IV dropped Harpursville/Afton from Class C down to Class D. Fast forward to playoff time - the sectional semifinals, to be exact - when eligibility became a major issue for the team. But so far this year, there have been no such problems.
"Last season was exciting," said head coach Tim Petras. "We had a lot of obstacles in our way with scheduling changes, whether or not we were going to be able to play our last game. Nothing really seemed to come easy with that team, but it was exciting."
Harpursville/Afton set aside those distractions in 2016 to finish the regular season 6-1, before falling to Sidney in the Section IV Class D semifinals.
"Life is going to throw you obstacles," added Petras. "A lot of things are beyond your control. You can't get hung up on the challenges. You have to focus, regroup."
This year's Hornets team will look a little different to fans, shifting from a power attack to a more speed-based offense led by senior running back Josh Wilson.
"Josh is just a special kid," said Petras. "From an athletic standpoint, not very big, but he is so stinking fast. He is compact. He is strong. He is solid. He will break tackles, and he will throw a stiff-arm in a tacklers face if need be."
"Give the ball to Josh, you don't know where he is going to go," said senior quarterback and linebacker Tyler King. "That's the beauty of it. He can cut anywhere. He can score on any play on the field. Any part of the field, he can get in the end zone."
"It's ridiculous because you don't know which way he is going," added senior lineman and linebacker Brock Weist. "Play is going right, he'll cut it back left in a instance."
And Wilson is stepping into more of a leadership role, as well.
"You just have to influence the younger kids to step up, try to do their best and don't get down on themselves," senior running back and safety Josh Wilson said.
Also returning for the Hornets is quarterback Tyler King.
"Tyler is just the calm, cool guy," said Petras. "His blood pressure never goes above a certain level, and he is just a sense of calm, whether it's in the huddle, on the sidelines or in practice."
You'll see King doing more than just carrying the rock this season, he'll also be delivering some blows defensively as a linebacker.
"That's going to be awesome," said King. "I worked hard to get that position. I wanted that position bad. I want to be more involve."
Harpursville/Afton has its sights set high in 2017 but knows it won't be easy in a very competitive Class D.
"We know the goals," said King. "We want to go farther than we did last year."
"Between Greene and Sidney, you have two of the elite programs in, not only Section IV, but in New York state," added Petras. "They are going to have to be ready for a battle every week."
Harpursville/Afton kicks off the 2017 season at home on Saturday, September 2 at 1:30 p.m. against Delhi.