Valley Heights’ 2020 season ended with disappointment and thoughts of what could’ve been. The Mustangs were humming heading into postseason play, winning their final four games by an average of 62 points before the coronavirus reared its ugly head and forced the senior-laden team to forfeit its playoff game versus Northeast-Arma, ending their season at 7-2.

Now, the Mustangs are back and hoping they can find similar success this season despite the loss of key senior pieces like Cameron Beardsley and Jake Yungeberg.

“There’s especially (some hunger) from the older guys,” first-year head coach Cody Trimble said. “We kind of knew what we had a chance to do and then missing out on that was hard for them. You can definitely feel it in the coaching staff too.”

Trimble takes over for his father Tony Trimble, who coached the Mustangs for 16 years before deciding to move down to Hutchinson to be closer to his wife. Tony left as the winningest coach in school history (80-66), and now his son is picking up his mantle and keeping the Trimble tradition alive in Blue Rapids.

“There’s a little bit of everything emotion wise,” Cody said, referring to how he felt heading into his first season as head coach. “I feel pretty good, I guess. I’ve been around my whole life. I still got my grandpa here to help, and I think this is his 46th year and he’s going to be our offensive coordinator again this year. So a lot of things are going to stay the same, which is good for the kids.”

Leading the way for the Mustangs as one of the top players in Class 1A is senior running back/defensive back Trenton L’ecuyer. The explosive L’ecuyer had 69 carries for 795 yards and 15 touchdowns last season. He also grabbed an interception on defense.

“He’s by far the most athletic kid out here,” Trimble said. “He’s just so smooth when he runs the ball. And he’s just a good leader outside (of football) too.”

Joining L’ecuyer in the defensive backfield is senior Treyton Claycamp. Claycamp, who also plays tight end, has been a three-year starter on defense and snagged an interception last season.

“He’s going to be pretty versatile for us,” Trimble said. “We can move him around to a couple different spots and he’s probably one of our best leaders also.”

Trimble also mentioned senior linebacker and fullback Tanner Meadows and senior lineman Connor House as returners he expects to play a big part for Valley Heights this season. Beyond that, Trimble says competition will decide which of the young players will see time on varsity.

“They know that every spot is up for grabs,” Trimble said. “Nothing set in stone, so they want a spot,. It’s up to them to earn it. There are plenty of spots to choose from.”

Because of the Mustangs’ youth, Trimble is well aware growing pains will be part and parcel this season, but he is hoping that steady growth will mark progress as the year progresses.

“I’d say development is probably the biggest thing,” Trimble said. “We’re going to have the potential to have a lot of young guys on the field — a lot of sophomores on the field, maybe even some freshmen. It might be a little bit of a learning year, but I think if everybody sticks with it, we can be pretty solid in the future.”

Valley Heights opens the season Friday at home versus Marysville.