ANTLERS, Oklahoma (KTEN)- Antlers may have finished 3-7 in 2022, but there were plenty of positives for the Bearcats to take from last season.

“We got a lot of experience," head coach Dustin Beasley said. "A lot of kids got playing time. We were able to platoon offense and defense for the most part. We didn’t have very many seniors that graduated, so we’re bringing a team back that has some experience.”

Junior quarterback Kooper Johnson gained a lot of good experience a year ago and Beasley is excited to see what he can do in his third year on varsity.

“We talk about effort and attitude and toughness and he brings that to the table each and every week," Beasley said. "He’s grown a lot as a quarterback. His ability to throw the ball and make good decisions has exploded since last year, so we’re really excited about him.”

Antlers graduated its top two receivers from last season. Among the returnees at the position is junior Chandler Joslin and he’s glad it will be Johnson throwing the ball his way.

“It’s good. I can count on him," Joslin said. "We’re good buddies, so I mean, it’ll just help out.”

But Antlers won’t solely rely on Johnson. Several Bearcat players said it would be the defense that would be the strength of the 2023 team.

“I’m excited about our defense. We should fly around," Beasley said. "We’ve got experience, so they know what we do a lot better and they’re going to make less mental mistakes. I think we’re going to be able to compete with quite a few people.”

The defense should also be better because of another area the Bearcats have improved in.

“I say the teamwork and communication, we’ve been really working on that," Antlers junior linebacker Tyler Medeiros said. "We’ve stepped that up from last year. Helped us out a lot."

Antlers will still be young this season having started nine sophomores and freshmen last year. And if the Bearcats do encounter some growing pains this season, Beasley has a clear message for his players.

“Help each other. Pick each other up," Beasley said. "Don’t get upset and frustrated and dampen our spirits. Stay positive."

Antlers will open its 2023 season on September 1 when it plays host to Okmulgee.