Lou Tolzda's first season coaching in Woodsfield had to be deemed a success.
Monroe Central was coming off a 5-win season in 2011-2012 and managed to finish 14-10.
The Seminoles did this, despite having to learn a new style of play under Tolzda.
PICTURED IS the 2013-14 Monroe Central basketball team. Front row, from left, are coaches Scott Jorris, Ryan Rosnick, head coach Lou “Scooter” Tolzda and Tom Rouse. Standing, from left, are Levi Brown, Tanner Burkhart, Bryan Duffy, Cole Howell, Curtis Nixon, Gavin Morton, Chandler Kuhn, Gage Ash, Seth Alleman, Zach Jorris and manager Micah Roberts.
They fell to a solid Buckeye Trail squad three times, the final coming in the sectional tournament after beating West Muskingum to advance to the finals.
And they did so without the services of then junior Curtis Nixon, whose 6-foot-2 frame and athleticism were forced to watch from the bench while recovering from a knee injury.
"We thought last year was a successful season," Tolzda said prior to the tipoff of his second season in the Monroe County seat. "We had a new coach and didn't win that many games (the year before) and we wound up winning the PVC.
"We were able to beat River twice and that was one of the highlights of our season."
Few managed to beat the Pilots last season as River advanced all the way to the regional.
But Monroe somehow managed to defeat the Pilots not once, but twice.
Playing successfully meant the Seminoles had to buy into Tolzda's style of play, one the former longtime Beallsville coach's teams were famous for right down the road.
To say the 'Noles players were forced to play uptempo wouldn't do justice to what Tolzda asked his kids to accomplish. They had to run faster for longer and play harder on both ends of the court than ever before. The ability to think on the fly and keep moving without hesitation is paramount.
"I think they bought into it," Tolzda said. "I told them what we wanted to do, it wasn't easy. It will be the hardest thing they've ever done. Pressuring the ball, getting up and down the court it's playing th e game the way it's meant to to be played."
Tolzda is hoping the fact his players took to the transition so seemlessly is a sign that good things are coming his team's way this season.
But first, he'll have to replace the services of departed seniors and four starters from last year's team.
Gone are the scoring tandem of Korey Lafferre and Cameron Jorris, along with Kordell Antill, Camden Hill and interior enforcer Josh Guiler.
That's a lot of experience and roughly 80 percent of the team's scoring output to replace. By no means is that a small feat to accomplish.
Tolzda, however, likes the make up of this year's squad. He'll like it even better once he gets them all on the practice court.
The Seminoles' football success saw the team playing into Week 12. Tolzda applauds the success but given the majority of his varsity roster was still in pads in mid-November, it made getting ready for hoops' season difficult.
But winning begets winning and the coach is hoping some of that success carry's over to the hardwood.
"I'd say of our first nine kids, six are still involved in football," Tolzda said. "It definitely affects you but we've been in this position before. Good athletes win ball games. A lot of times, if they are good in football, they are good in basketball. Just look at schools like Bellaire, Shadyside, Ferry.
"The only tough part is we're not going to have our basketball legs the first few games."
Like the football team, Tolzda's squad will benefit from the return of Nixon.
He'll likely be counted on to pick up a good portion of the scoring that was produced by Lafferre, who totaled 15.4 points per game.
"Athletically, I'd put Curtis up against most kids," Tolzda said. "He's an athlete."
He'll be joined by defensive guru and returning starter Levi Brown.
While not the tallest player, Brown's size hasn't hurt him in football and it certainly doesn't hurt him on the hardwood.
"I've said this before, but when he's on his game, hustling and ratting the ball, he does it as good as any kid I've coached," Tolzda said of Brown. "He's the catalyst for us he comes up with loose balls that I've never seen people get before. It all starts with him."
He'll be joined by senior Bryan Duffy (6-foot) on the wing. Zach Jorris also figures prominently after contributing in a few spot starts last season.
Chandler Kuhn (6-4) will be counted on for his inside presence after growing a few more inches prior to the season.
Seth Alleman, whom Tolzda describes as a slasher and a hustler, has improved his game and the left handers ability to attack the basket from the opposite side will be beneficial.
Junior Gavin Morton could also make a sizable contribution. The 'Noles tallest player at 6-6, Morton has developed into a solid player and will provide valuable minutes in the paint.
One player who will provide the Seminoles with a serious perimeter threat is Tanner Burkhart.
Playing primarily on the junior varsity a season ago, Burkhart twice canned eight 3-pointers in a game and put up 45 points in another. While jayvee is not varsity, Tolzda did note both of this multi 3-point games came against Magnolia and Fort Frye, two well-coached and talented teams.
Standing around 5-11, Burkhart has a quick release and deep range according to the coach.
Monroe will need that talent as the Seminoles will be facing a difficult schedule.
It will be a battle just to reach the OVAC tournament as Class AAA is loaded.
"We think we can have a good season if we can replace the kids we lost, maybe take it up a step higher, but it's not going to be easy," Tolzda said. "Fort Frye will be better than they were last year, Trail returns four starters, Caldwell has its top eight kids coming back. Magnolia, even though they lost Winters, has some quality kids coming back and Shadyside will be a really good team.
"If you look up and down the OVAC and at the teams in our division, I'd take our top five or six over any other (class).
"There is us, Fort Frye, Linsly, Magnolia and Trail and throw in Steubenville Central two really good teams are not going to make the top four. There will be no gimmes."
Monroe opens the season at home with West Muskingum on Black Friday before heading to Caldwell the following evening for the Redskins' home opener.