BEATRICE - Beatrice football is used to winning.

The Orangemen were .500 or better for eight straight seasons from 2010-2017. That run was capped with a district title in Kevin Meyer's final year as head coach.

With Meyer's departure and the graduation of 22 seniors, including current Husker Cameron Jurgens, Beatrice took a step back in 2018 with a 1-8 record.

"The standard is playoffs every year and being in contention for district titles," Beatrice's second year head coach Todd Ekart said. "That's what we expect from Beatrice. Last year, we just didn't get done. We had a lot of new staff. We had to start a lot of young kids due to injuries, but as the season wore on, we got better and better. This year, the kids have really bought into what we're doing in the weight room and on the practice field, and that's going to really pay off."

The 2018 team was young. Twelve freshmen and 20 sophomores. Many of them, along with many of the 12 juniors coming back, saw significant playing time last season. Ekart believes that will provide a foundation for improvement in 2019.

"We still have a young group, but we have a group with a lot of playing time," Ekart said. "A lot of these kids had to play as sophomores last year. A lot of them played as juniors without any experience. So, we had a bunch of young kids, and now they're now a year older and really grasping the concepts of what we're trying to do."

The Orangemen suffered a massive blow this summer before practice even started. Senior Andrew Mahoney tore his ACL in June while at a basketball camp in Nebraska City. He was Beatrice's lead returning receiver this year. He totaled 342 rushing yards for four touchdowns, along with a team-best 325 receiving yards and two TDs.

"(Andrew) was a gamebreaker," Ekart said. "We have a couple of other kids that'll be pretty good for us. They don't have the gamebreaking speed like Mahoney. (The injury) comes with the territory. We want all of our kids to be multi-sport athletes. Sometimes that happens. He'll rehab and be back in time for track."

Mahoney missed district track this past season due to a hamstring injury.

Beatrice is relatively young again this year with just 10 seniors on roster. Senior middle linebacker and running back Dakota Adams led the team in tackles last year with 68 in all. He also gathered two sacks, a fumble recovery and 60-yard interception return.

Mahoney will be missed on the field, but Adams remains confident that Beatrice can take a large step in the right direction this fall.

"It kind of sucks, because (Mahoney) had a lot of speed," Adams said. "He was a big weapon you had to watch out for, but you just got to have the next guy up. The next man just has to do his part, and everyone has to chip in to make everyone else better."

Junior Brody Nelson, who rushed for 358 yards and three scores last year, will lead the backfield with Adams, who rushed for 206 yards and a score in '18. Sophomore Austin Burroughs is also expected to factor it.

As for quarterback, Adams and Bennett Crandall split reps under center last year, but Crandall will take the reins to start this season. The junior passed for a team-best 329 yards last year, along with two touchdowns and one interception while completing 56.1% of his passes.

Beatrice opens their season on Aug. 30 at nearby Norris. The Orangemen face a tough schedule in 2019, with six of their nine opponents fresh off of playoff appearances last year.

Key games:

@ Norris (8/30)

McCook (9/20)

@ York (9/27)

@ Hastings (10/18)

Seward (10/25)

You can follow Tommy on Twitter @Tommy_NCN.