In more ways than one, the 2008 football season could be viewed as a rebuilding one for Northern Bedford.
Certainly there's the issue of the untimely departure of the Black Panthers' coach, Dan Foor, less than a month before the scheduled start of training camp.
But Jeff Batzel, who moved from his role as the team's offensive coordinator to take over the head coaching duties upon Foor's departure, has also been left with a cupboard that appears to be largely bare.
Senior slotback/linebacker Billy Riley is the Black Panthers' only returning starter.
The husky 5-foot-7, 185-pound Riley, who played defensive end the last two seasons, will be a three-year starter on defense.
"Experience is always a good thing to have, especially on a team like this one, where there are not a lot of players returning,'' Riley said. "All of us are going to have to step up this year.''
Riley doesn't feel the adjustment from defensive end to linebacker will be overly taxing for him.
"It's not that big of a change,'' he said. "It's just a matter of learning some new assignments, new duties, and figuring on what keys to read on defense. I guess that when playing defensive end, you're more worried about containing the outside. At linebacker, there's more freedom to run around.''
On offense, Northern Bedford's unit is a little bit more experienced.
"We have some good skill people, and a lot of weapons,'' Riley said. "[But] I'm expecting to get the ball a lot.''
Batzel appreciates the versatility of Riley, who plans to major in criminal justice in college, with the eventual goal of obtaining a job with the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
''He's just a solid, all-around player,'' Batzel said of Riley. ''He's one of those rare kids who can play a number of different places on both sides of the ball. He is a leader by example, and a very good one.''
Riley doesn't anticipate that the coaching transition will be too drastic under Batzel, who was the program's offensive coordinator for the past eight seasons.
''He was our offensive coordinator, so not much will change on offense,'' said Riley, who is also a member of the basketball and track teams at Northern Bedford. ''And very few things will change on defense, either.''
''We're going to be pretty much playing Northern Bedford football the way you've seen it for the last few years,'' he said.