YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – Last year at Liberty High School, head coach Joe Simon lead the Leopards to one of the best mid-season turnarounds in the entire area to make the playoffs.

Now with 13 letter winners returning, there’s some more excitement in the building headed into 2023.

“We played the eventual state champion in South Range, and now, we didn’t play bad against them,” Simon said. “These guys had an opportunity to play on a big stage and the lights are on and you’re going against the best of the best. So, I think they learned a lot from it.”

From the coaches at Liberty to players, like senior Tawann Tutwiler and junior Brady Morgan, everyone remembers that playoff football feeling,

“At the end of a playoff game last year, you could see all the seniors tearing up and crying,” Tutwiler said. “Then me knowing the fact I’m going into my last year, it really did deepen out this year. I got cousins and brothers playing with me, so I would love to make this year really special.”

“I mean, state champs last year, it kicked us out first round, you know, it’s it does leave a sour taste in your mouth,” Morgan said.

Now, they say the main focus in the building is improving on the first-round exit.

“We are always looking to improve, you know, four wins last year is nothing special about that,” Morgan said. “You want to be able to get better every year, win more games every year and make a name for the team here this year.”

Plus, Simon sees this team coming together as the season nears, with more experience under their belt.

“We always have good skill. And to have the line to go with it, definitely makes me excited for the season,” Simon said. “Our team speed is extraordinary, that’s definitely our biggest strength we have. I think that’s going to play a big role defensively and that experience that comes into play a lot, especially when there’s a big moment and the crowd’s loud and it’s the fourth quarter and your heart’s beating, like, that’s all right, I’ve been here, I’ve done this before, and I’m ready for it.”

The Leopards open up the season on the road taking on Edgewood on Friday, August 18.