Despite being a Class A school in football, Newell-Fonda doesn't experience rebuilding years; it simply reloads in years they are hit hard by graduation.
This season will be one of those, with seven starters lost to graduation. Among them were halfback Chad Buchholz, quarterback Mike Movall, defensive back Travis Wells, all-state kicker Peter Olsen and defensive standouts Brent Sexton, Matt Sievers and Kevin Wells.
The Mustangs do return four starters, including tailback/defensive back David Hopper, tight end/linebacker Travis Kies, offensive-defensive lineman Austin Vanderhoff and lineman Lance Bellinghausen.
Last season, the Mustangs finished 9-2 overall and second in the district with an 8-1 record. Both losses came to No. 1 West Bend Mallard, including in the playoffs.
According to Mustang coach Brian Wilken, now in his seventh year at the helm, how far his team goes will be determined how well a group of first-time starters develops.
"This year's team will have an number of new faces in the starting lineup," Wilken said recently. "A number of these players did see varsity action as reserves, but there is a huge difference between being a reserve and a two-way starter.
"How fast the new guys can accept this responsibility is a major factor in determining our success," Wilken added.
On the positive side, Newell-Fonda will have more depth this season than in recent years. Wilken said if some injuries are sustained, his team will be able to absorb them with depth.
Another strength of the team, Wilken said, is the return of Hopper and Spencer Baak at running back. Last year, both were starters, with Hopper running for 1,252 yards and Baak rushing for 267 yards.
Last season as a reserve quarterback, Evan Franzmeier completed 2 of 3 passes for 87 yards and one touchdown.
On defense, Kies finished with 64 tackles and an interception while Baak had 60 tackles at defensive back and Hopper 49 tackles, also as a defensive back.
Wilken added that some of the team's weaknesses include just one offensive lineman returning as a starter and one defensive back returning.
"Those are both concerns," the coach said.
Other letterwinners for the Mustangs are senior end-DB Garrett Bruner, SB/SS Nathan Miller, lineman B.J. Baskerville wideout-defensive back Colby Jorgenson, quarterback/DB Franzmeier, TE/DE Robert Devereaux, junior lineman Luke Sarchet, QB/strong safety Jack Reis, wideout/DB Nate Richter, fullback-defensive end Josh Winkler, lineman/linebacker Andy Wienhold and lineman Parker Wells.
Wilken said Rockwell City-Lytton and Alta look to be the favorites in the Mustangs' district. "Schaller-Crestland and Odebolt-Arthur are close behind," he added. "All four of those teams return a lot of starters from last year."