ESSEX, VT – The first order of business for the Essex Hornets this preseason was making sure each player was committed.

“I had the guys take a second, take a deep breath, and just said, ‘Where else would you rather be? I wouldn’t rather be anywhere else than on a football field here in the fall.’ I love vermont football,” said Hornets head coach Ethan Curtis.

Last year at this time, the Hornets were defending Division I state champions. Then, in the first weekend of November, the CVU Redhawks squashed their hopes of going back-to-back.

“I’ve been thinking about it a lot. But I’m not gonna put it away,” said lineman Max Spaeder, about the playoff game. Essex held a 17-0 lead in the first quarter but let it slip away. “We use it as fuel. We’re just gonna keep working, we’re gonna try to be back.”

“We’ve never had this many guys in the weight room before, they’re doing practices on their own,” said Curtis. “They’re coming out here, they’re running hard, they’re doing what they can do and they’re just saying this year’s gonna be different.”

And to back that up, this Hornets team is older.

“We had a lot of young guys last year. All those guys now are juniors [and] they had experience on the varsity level so I’ve not worried at all,” said the second-year Head Coach. “You’re going to see number 15 Carter Crete playing quarterback and he’s a little bit different than Charlie [Bowen]. Charlie was quick and likes to run away from people, Carter likes to run at people.”

“I’m very confident,” said Crete. “I’m very confident in me and my friends. We’ve all been playing together for so long.”

Crete and his teammates have some shoes to fill with Bowen and 1,000-yard rusher Tanner Robbins graduating. “We had a couple of guys leave that were a lot of fun to be around. But doesn’t matter. It really doesn’t matter. It sucks we lost a couple of seniors but so did everyone else,” said Crete.

As much as the Hornets are looking forward to the week one kick-off, head coach Curtis hopes his boys also appreciate the moment.

Kind of our motto is unfinished business for this year, so we’re talking about that a whole bunch and then making sure these seniors realize that they don’t get day one of preseason again,” said Curtis. “So it’s, don’t leave anything behind, because there’s nothing like Hornet football.”

Essex opens its season on the road against Rutand for the fourth year in a row. Kick-off is on Friday, September 1.