NORFOLK, Neb. - As football teams across the state navigate a new season, one team in northeast Nebraska is adjusting to more than new teammates; a new coach.
After a summer full of intensity, Norfolk high school football players are kicking off their season with a new coach.
The former Sidney Coach, Chris Koozer, moved to Norfolk three months ago.
He said the summer has been full of hard work and most importantly bonding.
"One of the awesome things about these kids is they've been really welcoming and they're really great to my young kids," said Koozer. "It feels like a family, which is really cool and a fun group to coach."
Koozer replaces Tom Olson, who coached at Norfolk for 23 years.
"I know that coach Olson ran a great program," said Koozer. "So it was definitely complementary to the old program, I didn't want to go change a million things...just build on what they've done and tweak some of the little things and maybe try to improve the things I see in areas. You know, put my own mark on things, and every coach will do that."
The Panthers are welcoming that change of pace.
"It's going to make us a way more physical team and way better on the field," said Jackson Bos, Norfolk Junior.
After six seasons at Sidney, Koozer is transitioning back to Class A play.
"One thing about Class A is everybody's good," said Koozer. "So I know that's going to be a challenge every single week."
Though the this year's squad returns 16 starters, it's a fairly young team.
"You have a really big sophomore class, about 35 kids out so that's definitely one of our strengths, our depth guys that could definitely see some time," said Koozer.
Koozer said the high head count creates healthy competition in practice.
"They really care about each other," said Koozer. "They want to get better every single day. They keep challenging each other to get better. They had a great summer in the weight room."
It's not just the physical strength these guys have been focusing on this year.
"I really just want to stay positive and build everyone up, because in years past I've definitely felt a lot of negativity on the team," said Brayden Heffner, Norfolk Senior.
Though they face a tough season, Koozer reminds them of the basics.
"Football is football," said Koozer.
Coach says his main goal for this year all comes down to effort.
"This first season we want to make sure we're working hard every single week," said Koozer. "We want to be competitive every single wee, and we just want to give everybody our best shot."
For a closer look at this year's team click HERE.