It isn't easy, recovering from the graduation loss of a player with a resume as formidable as Joe Licata's.
It doesn't get any easier when favorite target Phil Stasiak -- a fellow First Team All-Western New Yorker -- has graduated too, along with Second Team All-WNYer Kevin O'Connell.
But life without Licata? Williamsville South head coach Kraig Kurzanski says it will go on all the same.
"Those guys are great football players, they were great for us," Kurzanski said. "We have other good players, though."
This season, Kurzanski is looking to the players in the trenches to provide consistency, with four returning starters driving a powerful offensive line for the Billies. Kurzanski mentioned seniors Jon Castronova, TJ Scamurra, Devin Stines and Josh Jacobs as well as junior Greg Crane as being a part of what he expects will be a strong front.
"I think as a group of offensive linemen, this is the best I've ever had," Kurzanski said. "Ever, in my 23 years of coaching."
The line is anchored by Scamurra, the center.
"The best lineman in the area," according to Kurzanski.
The 2010 All-WNY honorable mention lineman also believes that the front five can swing games in favor of the Billies.
"We'll be pretty good," Scamurra said. "We've got four returning starters and one junior playing on the offensive line, so we've all worked together before and we really know what we're doing."
Kurzanski said one of the biggest changes that comes with having a solid line is more of a focus on the run. The team has changed some formations to become more run-friendly, he said, and the ground game has shown improvement in practice.
"With the guys up front, we should run the ball," he said. "They're good run blockers, just tough kids. We should run the ball more, and we will."
That works just fine for Scamurra.
"You get to devastate, pancake some guys easier on the run plays because you get to go forward rather than backward to protect the quarterback," he said, indicating he prefers to run.
Benefiting from additional work this season will be senior Luke Falzone, who wasn't the starting tailback last year but still got plenty of carries.
Falzone said he thinks the team will be ready for the challenge, with the younger players coming along nicely and the offensive line leading the way.
"They've been working real hard in the offseason, along with everyone else on the team, and they're going to be great for us, especially me because I'm running the ball. I can just follow them," he said.
But don't think that just because Licata is gone the Billies won't go to the air.
Kurzanski said that Trent Ferguson, a junior transfer from St. Joe's, will likely be starting under center. He's already won the confidence of the team, taking part in offseason workouts and learning the playbook.
"Trent's coming in, he's going to throw it. Obviously, you can't replace Joe, but he's coming in and he's going to be a great QB for us," said Cody Stumpf, a senior wide receiver and safety who will be one of those stepping up to fill the void left by the graduating seniors. "We'll try to keep it up from last year. Luke's a good running back, Trent can run and throw, it changes our whole offensive game."
Ferguson knows exactly who he's replacing. He said that he can't try to be Licata and thrive.
"It's definitely a big role to fill, but I just take it day-by-day and live up to whatever I can do, play the best I can be," he said. "I'm definitely ready."
He settled in at South during the offseason, working on his drops and reads as he prepares to take over a varsity offense. Kurzanski said he likes his young quarterback and won't be afraid to put the ball in his hands this season.
"I'm definitely comfortable," Ferguson said. "Will South, everybody's like a family so it's easy to become comfortable quickly.
"I think the possibilities are endless."
Senior wideout/cornerback Billy Jacobbi also gives Ferguson a full vote of confidence.
"He already knows all the plays and stuff, he's a great quarterback," said Jacobbi, who was used to catching passes from Licata, including nine catches for 137 yards and a score in last fall's stinging, 48-15 Section VI Class A final loss to Sweet Home.
That loss remains with the returning seniors, and they indicated they want another shot.
"That's our goal, is to go back to the Ralph and win it this year," said Castronova, a linebacker/right guard who tore his ACL last season and is itching to get back on the field.
Kurzanski was looking a little more short term.
"We've got to beat South Park [in the opener]," Kurzanski said. "We're just trying to cultivate pride and tradition and keeping it going like we've been, and I think we can be very good.
"At this point, I think our linemen are up to the challenge -- they're leading our practices, and they're pushing all these other guys to get better -- and the last few days we've gotten better. Hopefully, we can keep going."