HOLLAND, OH (WTOL) - The Springfield Blue Devils are coming off a perfect 10-0 regular season that saw them win the NLL title for the first time in more than four decades.
Entering this year, the target will be on their back as the favorites to repeat.
"We don't want to change our position or our practice plan," head coach Pat Gucciardo said. "Any part of our approach, we want to keep the same. I'm so impressed with the work ethic of our kids over the last five seasons and the progression that we've made. We're not going to treat this season any differently than any other season that we've had."
"The culture started changing with Scottie Seymour," quarterback A.J. Gucciardo said. "Now, we're just doing what we do. We probably won't sneak up on anybody, but it will be fun to see how it goes."
There is one glaring piece missing for the Blue Devils this year. Star running back Bryant Koback is in Lexington to play for the Kentucky Wildcats. Coach Gucciardo hopes Alex Legeza can fill void.
While Legeza has yet to prove he can put up similar numbers to Koback, he will run behind a talent offensive line anchored by Tyler Long. Long received attention from numerous college, but committed to stay close to home and play for the Rockets. But there is unfinished business in the high school level first.
"You've always gotta stay humble," Long said. "It's great having colleges look at you and have that opportunity. It just gives you more motivation to do better on the field and show what I can do."
A.J. Gucciardo comes into the 2017 season after putting up huge numbers statistically for the Blue Devils. And when Koback went down with a season-ending injury last year, he picked up the slack. But he knows he needs to improve to help the Blue Devils make a deep playoff run.
"[I need to] make better decisions," A.J. Gucciardo said. "I thought last year, too many turnovers on my part. I need to work on that and just making better decisions will help that."
If the Blue Devils have similar success to 2016 and make into the playoffs, they will have to play the first two contests without their head coach. The OHSAA suspended Coach Gucciardo Tuesday for the first two playoff games for recruiting violations.
Springfield opens their season on the road at Fremont Ross.