At one point last season, Reno High looked like an easy pick as the area's breakout 4A football team with a 6-1 record.
However, the Huskies dropped the final four games of the season to finish with a 6-5 record, identical to 2010.
Coach Dan Avansino said he believes the team's early success might have ultimately contributed to its collapse and first-round playoff exit.
"We weren't really tested early on," Avansino said. "Once we were really tested and kind of figuratively punched in the mouth, we didn't respond very well. Hopefully, we have some adversity early on that forges that iron to make us tougher when it counts the most to finish the season."
Avansino is likely to get his wish, as his team opens with Douglas and Carson this season.
"The wheels came off at the end of the year, and we have to find a way to finish," Avansino said. "That's learning through adversity early."
This year's early adversity might have come last year. A strong believer that a high school team is defined by its seniors, Avansino is hopeful that this year's large senior class has been battle-tested by last year's slump.
"I think it comes back down to seniors, and I think our seniors have experienced that difficulty last year," Avansino said. "If they're a mature enough group, they'll understand what they need to do to overcome those similar situations this year."
For their part, the team's seniors are emphasizing similar goals in leading the rest of the team.
"Last year, obviously, we didn't have the finish that we'd like to," senior quarterback Chad Savage said. "Right now, we're stressing to start fast, finish strong. That's where we're going."
The seniors also recognize that if Reno is to find more early success this season, it might not be through the element of surprise they enjoyed last year.
"I think they kind of know that we're coming out and not just going to roll over," senior left tackle John Dickson said. "We're going to hit them hard, every time."
Avansino is quick to point out that at all levels of football, a strong start to a season does not necessarily inform the finish and that his squad was not the only one to learn that first-hand last year.
"You look at the highest levels, the NFL, you have a 15-1 Packer team that for most of the year was the No. 1 team, but who wins the Super Bowl? A 9-7 Giants team," Avansino said. "I think really the key element is to work with the end in mind."