FREEPORT, Ill. (WTVO/WQRF) — Once upon a time, Freeport had a very talented class of freshman football players who played on varsity. Now those freshmen are seniors, and they’re ready to lead the way for what they hope will be a memorable season in Pretzel-Town.

Last season was a year of highs and lows for Anthony Dedmond’s Freeport Pretzels. They finished 3-6, tied for 6th in the NIC-10 conference.

“I think the kids are a lot hungrier, they see that we came up short and are looking to improve that,” said Dedmond.

Now this year seems better than any to finally bust through with their group of senior returners.

“I’m always excited every year, but this year is a little bit different,” said Dedmond. “Just watching these young men grow, a lot of these young men, they’ve played since they were freshmen. So, they’ve got three years of varsity experience and you can tell, they are a lot more confident, a lot stronger.”

Those talent guys include running back Denarious Jackson and all-conference wide receiver Dedric Macon.

“They’ve grown, they’ve matured,” said Dedmond. “Physically, they’ve gotten better. Mentally, they are getting better, but at the end of the day they just want to do something we haven’t done in a long time, and that’s put complete games together.”

That’s what senior lineman Jermone Hall is hoping for.

“We always had the talent here in Freeport, it’s just the mental work, we always fell short,” said Hall.

Dedric Macon was second in the conference last year in receiving yards with 529 and nine touchdowns. He was also an All-State honorable mention wide receiver.

A big hole to fill on this roster is at quarterback as three-year starter Xzaveon Segner graduated, but this group seems excited about the possibilities with junior Payton Woker under center.

“This will be his third year playing football, but he is well beyond his years, composed, a leader and goes out there with that mentality of ‘we don’t need you to win games for us, just make sure you manage to the best of your ability,’ so he’s doing great, he’s improving every day and I’m looking forward to him having a great season,” said Dedmond.

The offensive line doesn’t possess the same size as last year, but they’ve got some athleticism which will play in their favor.

“You know, we are going to be able to move people around, going to be able to get to some spots that we probably couldn’t before because of our speed on the o-line,” said Dedmond.

On the defensive side of the ball, the Pretzels return eight starters which include linebackers Dawson Holland and Ali Al-Zirj, along with Anthony Frazier at corner.

“You can see the encouragement in their eyes, you see the confidence in their play. I’m just looking for good things to happen,” said Dedmond. “If we can go 1-0 each week, we’re good.”

The Pretzels haven’t seen the playoffs since 2008, a drought they would like to end this year.

“Get back to the playoffs, that’s really the goal,” said Woker. Five wins, that’s what we need.

The Pretzels open up their season at home against Belvidere North on Saturday, August 26.