The University School football team returns 11 starters from the 2015 squad that posted a 7-3 record in head coach Ben Malbasa’s first season at the helm.

US, one of the state’s longest-tenured and winningest programs, is looking to return to the postseason this fall.

The Hunting Valley squad is taking a methodical approach to achieving its goals and fulfilling the team motto of reaching “Higher Ground.”

“In anything you do, there is a higher ground, a position where you do all the right stuff and put yourself in a position of domination,” Malbasa said, explaining the team’s mantra. “Our goal is to achieve that.”

The Preppers believe setting and achieving daily goals is the path to team success.

“Incremental improvement leads to massive change over time,” Malbasa said of the team’s mindset.

US’ no-huddle, spread offense will be led once again by rising junior Jayden Cunningham, who threw for 21 touchdowns last season.

“Jayden, in my view, is the best quarterback in Northeast Ohio,” Malbasa said. “He’s a special player.”

The Preppers’ offense will also be bolstered by the return of pass-catchers Antonio Dargaj, David Dolansky and Brad Rehak as well as veteran linemen Justin Walton, Brendan Nemunaitis and Quinn Stephenson.

“On the offensive side of the ball, we’ve got a lot back,” Malbasa said. “Having an experienced offensive line and a quarterback with great decision-making skills is a big advantage for us.”

Cornerback John Dumas, tackle Camryn Hubbard and safety Max Feldman are leaders in the team’s odd-front defensive scheme. Feldman tallied six interceptions en route to earning all-state recognition as a junior.

The team’s camaraderie, according to Malbasa, shows on the field.

“They are very close to one another and they play like it,” Malbasa said. “There is this certain togetherness that has always been a part of US football.”

The Preppers open the season with a road contest against Villa Angela-St. Joseph on Saturday.

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