TOM BEAN, Texas (KTEN) After a 2-8 season last year, the message at Tom Bean is clear.

“Get better,” senior tight end and linebacker Branson Ashlock said. “That’s about it.”

And that’s exactly what the Tomcats have been doing this offseason.

“We’ve been working out in the weight room hard. We’ve been hitting it,” Tom Bean center and defensive end McKay Young said. “We’ve gotten a lot bigger and stronger and we work together a lot better.”

Tom Bean is ineligible for the playoffs again this season, but head coach Steve Fex still expects his team to have plenty of fire.

“You got to be competitive. We’re motivated,” Fex said. “We want to qualify for it [the playoffs]. Whether we can go or not is out of our hands.”

After a last place district finish in 2022 where the Tomcats failed to record a single district victory, Tom Bean’s goal has been set for this fall.

“Prove everybody wrong,” Ashlock said. “Everybody is hating on us right now and we’ve got to show that we can play.”

The Tomcats return 15 starters, but Fex said don’t let that number fool you.

“We’re really young, we’ve got three seniors,” Fex said. “Young guys got to grow up, and they’re ready for the challenge. They’ve got a year under their belt too. Even though they're young in grade, they played a lot last year, so they’ve got experience.”

And with that experience, Fex hopes to see results on the field in 2023.

“Last year, we were just trying to learn what to do,” Fex said. “That’s part of the process. This year, we know what we’re supposed to do. We know how we’re supposed to do it. Now we just need too do it with violent speed and enthusiasm.”

Because it’s not just about this year, the Tomcats are building for the future.

“We want to get better for whenever we can go to the playoffs next year,” Ashlock said. “Once we get to the playoffs, we’re going to make a deep run. I guarantee it.”

Tom Bean will open its 2023 season on August 25 when it travels out to Cumby.