By The Telegram

The transition into a new system and a new coach in 2008 proved to a big obstacle for the Ness/Dighton Titans.

First-year coach Faron Kraft watched his team struggle to a 1-8 record and now that his rookie season there is over, Kraft can get down to the business of seeing his team show improvement.

That should be possible with the return of 15 starters, seven on offense and eight defensively.

"This should be a good year for us," Kraft said. "We have a lot of team speed that we did not have last year, but on the flip side we are a lot smaller than what we were a year ago."

Kraft's top offensive threat coming back is senior quarterback Joe Flax (6-1, 170). In earning all-Central Prairie League honors, Flax passed for 900 yards and had 10 touchdown passes. Sophomore Guy Fullmer (5-10, 160) put up 500 yards rushing as a freshman while senior wide receiver Zac Birney (5-7, 140) had more than 300 receiving yards and three touchdowns.

The second-year coach will have All-CPL tackle Matt Jones (6-1, 250) returning as well as senior Clayton Johnson (5-8, 220) and junior Evan Lane (6-0, 190). Senior fullback Tyrel Hoffman (5-8, 165) rounds out the projected starting backfield.

Defensively, the Titans return nine of 11 starters. The group is led by a pair of all-league performers Birney at cornerback and Jones at tackle. Birney had 40 tackles and three interceptions while Jones registered 60 tackles and three sacks and also had three blocked kicks.

Lane and junior Garrett Parker (5-11, 170) will anchor the defensive end spots for Kraft. Lane accounted for 40 tackles last season. Johnson and Jones will beef up the middle of the interior defensive line while Fullmer, juniors Seth Shapland (5-9, 180), Charlie Ellis (6-0, 200) and C.J. Shaffer (5-7, 165) will provide the linebacking corps. Birney will be joined in the secondary by junior Taylor Parker (6-3, 160) and Flax. Flax had 70 tackles and two interceptions.