The North Royalton High School varsity football team enters the 2013 season on the heels of the first 10-win season in program history.
The Bears - who return only two starters on offense and six on defense from that record-setting squad - will begin play on Aug. 30 at home against Berea-Midpark with a proverbial chip on their collective shoulders.
"This senior group really wants to prove they were a big part of last year's success," ninth-year head coach Nick Ciulli said. "They want to make their own mark; our expectations are high and they want to continue the success."
Indicative of that desire, Ciullli said his team has adopted "Prove It" as its mantra for this fall.
Ciulli's primary message to the Bears this preseason has been that nothing comes easy and that nothing is for free.
"Perfect execution," Ciulli responded when asked what must happen for the Bears to achieve their yearly goal of qualifying for the state playoffs. "My players already work hard. We need to get the mental part of the game down."
If this year's North Royalton team is going to meet or exceed the accomplishments of its predecessor - a Northeast Ohio Conference River Division title and a Division I second-round playoff appearance - it will likely be because of the athletic ability and leadership skills of seniors Austin Smith, Henry Meinburg, Jack Marousek, Colin Wiley and Dominic Pissini.
"They all set a good example with a great work ethic," Ciulli said. "They are our go-to guys."
Ciulli is confident the Bears will rise to the occasion and put together another successful campaign.
"We should be able to have success moving the ball this year, if we execute," North Royalton's 43-year-old leader said. "We are definitely going to play better defense this year."
For more Northeast Ohio high school sports news, scores, photos and videos, visit USATodayhss.com/Cleveland.