When the prep football schedule came out last season, Bloomingdale lineman Christian Kerr scanned the list. He checked off the games he thought the Bulls would win.
Kerr ended up putting a slash through every opponent on the schedule.
"Honestly," he said. "I didn't see a team on that list we couldn't beat."
As it turns out, the smartest kid on the field couldn't have been more wrong.
Kerr, who holds a 6.1 weighted grade point average, and the Bulls suffered through a disastrous 0-10 season under first-year coach John Booth. To make matters worse, the Bulls' winless season came a year after reintroducing themselves to the student body and reaching the playoffs in 2008 for the first time in school history.
"We had a lot of setbacks (in 2009)," Kerr said. "It was tough."
The season seemed doomed from the beginning. Bloomingdale's weight room was under renovation during the summer, so the team had to cram some weights inside a tight locker area.
"We could only get a few weights in there," Kerr said.
Combine that with losing nearly 30 seniors from the 2008 team, and last year's Bulls had two strikes against them before the first kickoff.
"We were so young," Booth said. "And then to boot, you add a whole new offense and a whole new scheme into the mix. It was a lot to ask of these guys."
As many as five freshmen started on various Fridays. Even the more experienced players struggled with the new terminology that came with the program's third coach in as many years.
"This is the first time in my high school career I've had the same coach for two straight years," Kerr, a senior, said.
Although the Bulls struggled last season, Kerr is optimistic heading into his final year.
"For us it was a lot of little things," he said. "It was a play here or there and if those go our way, momentum changes."
Bloomingdale lost five of its games by two touchdowns or less, proving the Bulls could hang with most teams on their schedule. And even though it was "little things" that prevented them from pulling out close games, it doesn't necessarily feel better than a blowout.
"It may have been easier to take if we got beat 50-0 every game because at least we would know we got beat by better teams," Kerr said. "Losing close games is more frustrating. But either way you look at it, a loss is a loss."
Kerr will help make up the offensive line. Bloomingdale returns four starters up front, led by tackles Jake Smith and Kerr.
"Having that continuity, especially on the offensive line, is so important," said Kerr, who is being looked at by Harvard. "You have to work in unison up there, and we know each other's tendencies so well now."
Booth said even though last season was difficult, he was pleased with his players' resolve.
"You know when (our record) got to 0-5, 0-6, 0-7, it would have been easy to say 'Why bother?' " the coach said. "It was tough. But they stuck it out, and I think they'll be a better team this year because of that."
Now the question is will the Bulls resemble the 2008 playoff team or last year's edition?
"There hasn't been a great tradition here, but we're working to change the mind-set," Booth said. "That's been the biggest challenge with these guys, but I truly believe they're capable of winning a district title."
Brandon Wright can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.