When you look at this year's Mandan football roster, the number of senior starters jumps out. The Braves are looking for that senior leadership to help them improve on a 2-6 record from last season.
If you ask the Mandan Braves what their biggest strength is this year, most the players will say the same thing.
"We know what we're doing out there. Most of us seniors have been playing, starting for two or three years so we all know what it's like to be out there playing varsity," said Jake Carlson, senior quarterback.
"It helps enormously. Just the experience we have in our starting lineup is insane. Some teams have sophomores as most of their players and to have an entire group of seniors is really helpful," said Nick Miller, senior running back and defensive end.
Carlson and Miller are two of those seniors playing big roles for the Braves.
Miller will lead the way as both a running back and defensive end, while Carlson is under center.
"What Jake does is he leads by example more than any other kid we've had. He's not real vocal. He doesn't say a lot, but when he does say something he expects the kids to listen. But it's not something most fans or anybody off to the side is going to hear. It's a pretty personal message," said head coach Todd Sheldon.
And Sheldon says the guys protecting Carlson are one of the stronger groups on the team, too.
"We could potentially see ourselves having five senior lineman start this year and having the experience in that group of kids. They're a group of kids that spend a lot of time together. Really cohesive group that's going to work hard to be good together," Sheldon said.
A big problem for the Braves last season was losing games late.
So this year's senior class is putting an emphasis on finishing games strong.
"Definitely, we have to finish games. Third and fourth quarters, second half kind of killed us last year. Just finishing games, playing hard all the way to the last whistle," said Jarad Zittleman, senior free safety and wide receiver.
The Braves started last year with a loss at Fargo South, and are looking for some revenge as the Bruins come to Faris Field on Friday for this year's season opener. One big thing the Braves will not have to worry about on Friday is James Johannasson. He's now a member of the Minnesota Golden Gophers football team.