WINNEBAGO, Ill. (WTVO/WQRF) — Mark Helm is entering his 16th year as head coach of the Winnebago Indians. His group made the playoff field last year for the first time in five years. They finished the season at 5-and-5. Helm says they are hoping to continue that upward trend.

“The kids got a little bit of a taste of it last year, so hopefully that feeds a little energy into this coming season.”

This team will be relying heavily on its junior class. There are only four seniors in the program this season.

“We have a lot of inexperience, at the same time a lot of these kids have played a lot of football, so hopefully a couple weeks we get comfortable and can play some good football,” said Helm.

Helm also says that a big focus in practices is on simulating what the younger guys will face on a Friday nights under the lights in the Big Northern conference.

We want to get as physical as you can beacuse the hits they are going to take on Friday night are obviously going to be a little harder than they took at fresh-soph.”

That especially goes for the guys up front, led by senior Xavier Heisler. The rest of the linemen are juniors. They include Payton Booth, Aiden Knoll, and Josh Cowman.

“It’s kind of tough to fill their shoes,” says Heisler of the linemen who have graduated. “But we are hoping that some of these younger guys can really step up and we can get as far as we did last year, if not further.”

With the graduation of Alex Weavel, Bago has a new face commanding the huddle this season with Mitchell Cunningham at quarterback.

“He played fresh-soph for us last year, he’s a junior, so first-year varsity player,” said Helm. “But he’s avery good leader, high-character, hard worker, so we are looking forward to seeing what he can do.”

One of the positives for Bago this year is in the offensive backfield. The Indians retain a bunch of speed.

“We are deep in the backfield, that’s the one plus that we have,” said Helm.

“We have a very fast backfield, and we just hope to keep building on that,” said running back Brandon Wiggan.

That backfield is led by senior, and state track sprint champion Supreme Muhammad, along with running backs Brandon Wiggan and Logan Olson. The defensive side of the ball isn’t as locked down just yet, but there’s been improvement each day in practice.

“I hope that everyone can sort of find that spark to make sure that they are staying aggressive out on the field and we do what we need to do,” said Heisler.