TIOGA, Texas (KTEN) - From a team that wasn't on anyone's radar to a playoff contender in 2021, the Tioga Bulldogs head into year two under head coach Chad Rogers.

"I got them when they all came off of COVID. They were all young. They got all these young kids coming back, and they hadn't been in the weight room. Some of our kids jumped 80 pounds, 90 pounds on the squats. Some of them 200 pounds," said Rogers.

"So they all went through that and got a little hungry. Then they got a little taste of success early on, and then all of a sudden their confidence started to grow. That's why I think this year is so important."

The team might have been young last season, but 2022 will be senior heavy.

"For a 2A school with 210 kids we got 57 helmets given out. You got 17 seniors. That's the most seniors I've heard of in a school our size," said Rogers.

"We don't have to stress about kids being tired. We can sub in and sub out. We can just run teams to death. That's our whole memo," said sophomore running back Johnny Dorpinghaus.

The team says hello to new junior quarterback Hayden Hilliard who came from Valley View. The last time Hilliard played football was his first game as a freshman where he injured his back and spine.

"Sitting there watching, it's like a prison and you just want to get back out there. Now we are, and I'm just ecstatic," said Hilliard.

Now that the program has seen success, the players have learned how to handle it, but also it's helped them grow.

"I think it just gives us the feeling that we can do it. We're not a team that's going to lay down anymore. We're not a team that's going to back down from a fight," said senior linebacker Elijah Deleon.

"We can't get too cocky. When we start winning games, we can't take that and say oh we're really good we're going to win a lot of games," said senior wide receiver Tyler Henley We have to keep proving each week that not only is every win not a fluke, but it's what to be expected."

Tioga opens their season at home vs Collinsville for Battle of the Bridge.