Payson certainly took some lumps on the football field a year ago, particularly in losing its first four games of the season.
But the Lions' youth in 2012 very well could pave the way for more wins this time around.
"We've got quite a few returning starters," Payson coach Jeremy Chapman said. "We started a lot of sophomores and juniors last year. A lot of the kids got thrust in situations they probably shouldn't have when they were younger."
Among the more seasoned lot for 2013 is senior Kyle Moffatt and junior Phil Perez at running back. Moffatt also is one of the Lions' top receiving threats, and he'll help out junior wideout Preston Little.
Chapman said that Payson struggled when Little was sidelined by injury, but the Lions' primary problem right now is finding someone to deliver the ball to the wide receivers.
Devan Judd threw for 39 touchdowns over three seasons, but he graduated. The quarterbacking duties likely will go to either junior Easton Smith or senior Sam Reynoso.
Whoever gets the job will have some experience up front. Both the offensive and defensive lines will benefit from the return of seniors Derek Johnson and Henry Clinger as well as junior Brian Hoschour. All three will be starting for a third consecutive season and will be depended upon to provide leadership for the more inexperienced players by their sides.
On defense, John Harmon also is a three-year starter at linebacker, and he'll get help from junior Dalton Baker and senior Gunnar Rawlings.
"They're just tough kids who like football," Chapman said.
ASSIGNMENT • Class 3AA South
LAST YEAR • 4-7 overall, 3-2 Region 12
KEY RETURNER • Kyle Moffat, sr., RB/CB
PLAYER TO WATCH • Preston Little, jr., WR
BIGGEST HOLE • Quarterback Devan Judd graduated after starting for three seasons.
NEED TO KNOW • Although the Lions return three seasoned players in the trenches, line play still is Payson's thinnest area.