CRETE - Doane has finished .500 or better in each of the last eight seasons, including a 6-4 record in 2018.

However, it’s been three years since the last playoff appearance and 22 years since the last playoff victory. Doane is hungry for a breakout year, and second year head coach Chris Bessler likes what he has in 2019.

"I'm very excited," he said. "We've had a good group of kids come in. Lots of excitement in the program."

Doane returns seven starters on offense, but must replace their starting running back, quarterback and three of the top four receivers.

The Tigers are also operating with a new offensive coordinator. Anthony Dunn took a coaching job at Papillion La-Vista after two years at Doane. In his place comes Dave Kimura, who has 12 years of coaching experience in the GPAC Conference.

In 2010, Kimura began coaching at Hastings as defensive line coach as well as serving as sports information director. He moved up the ranks and returned back to the offensive side of the ball. He coached quarterbacks and receivers, eventually becoming co-offensive coordinator and assistant head coach for the Broncos.

Outside of college, Kimura served as offensive coordinator for the Nebraska Danger of the Indoor Football League, and has worked with USA Football the past couple of years.

As for quarterback, the battle is wide open between 3-4 guys, but a lot of eyes are on Fairbury native and Wayne State transfer Adam Wasserman, who was first-team all-state in 2017.

Wasserman, a sophomore this season, passed for over 1,500 yards as a senior, leading the Jeffs to a 9-1 record. He received first-team accolades as a defensive back, where he picked off seven passes and returned four of them for touchdowns. He cites playing closer to home and having more familiar faces on the team as reasons for transferring.

As for the quarterbacks, he's competing with Wilber-Clatonia alum and freshman Mike Pulliam, Lincoln University (MO) transfer Drake Davidson and Wahoo native Cam Quick.

"We have a tight quarterback group," Wasserman said. "We all go with each other, support each other and make sure we're all doing the right things on the field."

On defense, eight of the top 10 tacklers from last year are gone. However, Doane has always been known for defense. Coach Bessler is entering his 13th year as defensive coordinator. Under his watch, Doane has consistently ranked toward the top of the GPAC in several major categories.

Last year alone, Doane ranked in the top three in the GPAC for scoring defense, pass defense and sacks per game (3rd in every category).

"I know that we're going to be bigger than we have been in the past in our defensive line," Bessler said. "I'm excited about where our defense is at, and the possibilities with what they can do."

At GPAC Media Days in Sioux City, Bessler said that Doane "has been a blue collar team for sometime now." He expanded on those comments at fall camp.

"I think our kids embrace working," he said. "I think they work hard. They enjoy what they're doing. They know football is going to be here for awhile, and then it's going to be gone. While they're here, they work hard at it and enjoy what they're doing."

Doane is picked to finish 6th in the GPAC by both coaches and media. They were picked 7th and 8th last season, and finished tied for 4th with a 5-4 conference record.

For the team, the polls have been a source of motivation, not discouragement.

"We're going to use that No. 6 spot as some fuel," junior receiver Josh Baker said. "We definitely think we're better than that, but we just have to go out and show them what we can do."

Doane kicks off the season against Ottawa University - Arizona on Thursday, Aug. 29 at Al Papik Field in Crete. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. central. The game can be viewed live on News Channel Nebraska. There will also be a live audio broadcast on Ol' Red 99.5 FM radio in southeast Nebraska, with pregame starting at 6:30.

You can follow Tommy on Twitter @Tommy_NCN.