The 2009 season ended the way Sandusky would have liked.
A shared conference title and a 30-0 pasting of rival Fremont Ross at home.
Now the Blue Streaks will see if they can make 2010 a complete campaign from start to finish.
"The way we finished last year was very important to the program," said fifth-year coach Mike Franklin. "We finish 4-1 after a 1-4 start, and won a league title for the first time in 15 years."
And it rubbed off, too, with great offseason work ethic.
Sandusky will use the momentum it built last year as a platform for 2010, senior lineman Donovan Cole said. "Now we know how to win."
The Streaks will search for the program's first winning season since 1999, when they went 6-4.
"We're leaving everything on the practice field," senior Jaylen Guevara said. "We have to work hard the whole week if we want to win and get everyone one the same page.
"We've got a lot more potential if everyone contributes as one."
The key is getting off to a good start.
Sandusky dropped its season opener twice in the last two years to Lorain Southview -- a school that had four wins in its final three seasons. With the Saints merging with Admiral King, the Blue Streaks will open up the year Friday at Clear Fork. There are non-conference games against Perkins, newly-minted Lorain, St. John's and St. Charles before playing the final five weeks of Greater Buckeye Conference history.
Sandusky will play in the Northern Ohio League in 2011.
In its final year in the GBC, Sandusky is set to defend its lone title in the league before the conference is as extinct as the dodo bird.
"We tell them how good they can be. And they saw how good they can be in Game 3 after a loss in Game 2," Franklin said. The lights came on in a 42-21 loss to St. John's that saw the Streaks compete one week after a 28-0 loss to Perkins.
"We think we're one of the favorites to win the GBC in its last year," Franklin said.
For Franklin and Co., it's one game at a time, and one year at a time before the program thinks about its new conference foes.
"Our goal is Week 1 and beating Clear Fork, a playoff-caliber team," he said.
Signal caller and All-GBC quarterback Zak Esposito is gone, but Lucas Poggiali (8 of 15 for 18 yards in '09), who started the first two games under center, returns to handle snaps in the Blue Streaks' shotgun spread offense.
So do a host of skill players in the backfield and on the perimeter.
Senior Cordney Strickland scored a team-high seven touchdowns and rushed for 828 yards on 175 carries. He also caught 23 passes for 133 yards and was the MVP of the Fremont Ross game.
"We want to work hard and come out to play like we did at the end of last season," Strickland said. "Just keep improving."
When Strickland isn't in the backfield, juniors Xavier Turner and Marquis Winston will carry the ball. While some purists shake their heads at a shotgun offense, Franklin said the team can still pound the ball.
"Just because it's shotgun doesn't mean you can't have a power game. We can still run run 'I' football," Franklin said.
"We'd like to run it (successfully) all game," Cole said. "The run sets up the pass; It sets up the complete game. We've got three strong backs."
Sandusky will use three- and four-receiver sets, highlighted by junior wideout Tristen Jeffries (10 catches, 257 yards, three TDs), who missed the last half of the season with a hand injury. Westley Newton (10 catches, 330 yards, three TDs), Brock Fuqua (eight catches, 75 yards) and Rayshawn Daniels will join him.
"My job is to catch the ball and be a complete receiver," Daniels said. And catching passes from a new arm doesn't matter to him. "I'm confident in (Poggiali). I think he'll live up to expectations."
Cole was second-team All-GBC a year ago on the offensive line, and other starters are Mike Brown, Chris Graham, Jaron Green and Adrian Hamilton.
The Streaks will use Gueverra and Kameron Collins at tight end.
The Blue Streaks allowed 218 points last year (21.8 per game), but only 70 in its last five game (14.0 per game). Napoleon was the only conference team to allow fewer points (89) the entire year.
The 3-5 set -- with three down linemen, five linebackers and three deep players -- will continue its evolution.
"Coach (Tom) Kiser did a great job helping implement that system," Franklin said, " and we return several defensive starters."
Cole, Brown and Trevontae Hampton will play in the trenches with one responsibility: "The D-line's job is to get double teamed and let linebackers make plays," Cole said.
Linebacker Phil Henderson lead the team in tackles last year with 98, Graham was second with 70 and had three sacks. Gueverra, Daniels, Jalen Taylor are also penciled in at the position.
The Blue Streaks forced 28 turnovers -- 20 of them on fumbles -- last fall as the defense found its footing, and a nickname for its personality.
"The 'Blue Swarm,'" Daniels called it. "We want to be aggressive to the ball, get 11 guys to the football at all times, getting turnovers and making hits."
Franklin wouldn't mind lining Poggiali up at linebacker because of his athleticism.
In the secondary, corners Damyion Smith and Mike Drake combined for six of the team's eight interceptions. Strickland will line up at safety as the last line of defense.
Brock Cremean, who handled extra-points and field goals for part of last season, and Andrew Barnum will handle the kicking duties.
In the return game, Franklin said the team has about "nine million returners."
Strickland averaged 20.4 yards per kick return, and Franklin mentioned Turner, Smith, Jeffries and Poggiali as names who could be called in the return game.