A year ago, the Carlisle Junior Bison had only two wins under first-year coach Brandon Barbaree.
Many of the starters from last year were eighth graders and will be counted upon heavily this season.
Barbaree said he has about 30 players this season.
"It’s down a little bit … we’d like a few more numbers but, from the number of players we had last year, it’s about right on par of what we were expecting," he said.
As of Tuesday, the Junior Bison had practiced six times in preparation for the 2013 season.
"We’ve had six pretty good practices with them," Barbaree said. "A lot of those guys are returning starters, which makes it a little bit easier. You can see the improvement that they have made in just their confidence. Physically, they are a little bigger and stronger. I think they are moving in the right direction."
The Junior Bison struggled at times a year ago but made improvements and were competitive late in the season.
"We are ahead of where we were last year, just looking at the practices and just their knowledge of the game," Barbaree said. "I believe that is part of junior high. We’re moving in the direction where you see them learning football and learning the skills of the game. We’re excited about the group.
"I think we will be more competitive and have a few more chances to get wins."
Barbaree knows that junior high football is geared toward learning the game and getting players ready for high school football.
"Everybody wants to win," he said. "It’s not the end all if we don’t win a junior high conference championship. We want to win when they are in the 10th, 11th and 12th grades. We’re always striving to win that big one. The ultimate goal is to win a state championship and be competitive in the state and making our community proud. I think that is what we’re working towards."
Carlisle opens the season at Pulaski Academy on Sept. 5. The first home game is Sept. 12 against McGehee. The first 2A-6 conference game is Sept. 19 at home against England.
Other home games include: Palestine-Wheatley on Sept. 26 and Hazen on Oct. 17.