After the Van Meter baseball team reached the state tournament semifinals this summer, the Bulldogs are hoping to see their winning ways continue.

The Bulldogs return 11 starters from last year’s 8-3 team, and seem poised for another strong season on the gridiron.

Quarterback Brandon Brittain returns after a season in which he threw for 1,606 yards and 13 touchdowns, and ran for 801 yards and 10 scores. Also returning is running back Cody Blackwell, who carried 141 times for 547 yards and 12 touchdowns.

Two of the team’s top three receivers are also back: Logan Crawford, who caught 19 passes for 242 yards and three scores, and Ben Flaherty, who caught 10 passes for 162 yards and one touchdown.

Chase Wyant, one of the team’s key defensive players last season, is back for his senior season. The 5-foot-8 150-pounder was seventh in all of Class 1A last season with 137 tackles from the nose guard position. He had 18 tackles for loss and eight solo sacks.

Spencer Benton and Ross Wesselmann return to their starting roles on the offensive and defensive lines, and Colton Boswell is back at center. Crawford had four interceptions at defensive back last season, Ben Engstrand is back at linebacker and Parker Suckow at defensive end.

Also returning are letterwinners Grant Waller, Brady Ladd and Grant Gordon.

Coach Eric Trudo hopes to build on the already strong foundation the team has over the course of the season.

"We have quite a bit of experience returning, especially on defense, so hopefully we can simply continue to improve," said Trudo, in his ninth season as head coach. The Bulldogs were undefeated with a 6-0 mark at home last season, including a 28-0 playoff victory against Panorama. They will hit the road for five regular season games this season, including an opening matchup at Earlham on Friday, Colfax-Mingo in week three, Central Decatur in week five and close out the regular season with games at West Central Valley and Des Moines Christian.

"We need to find our playmakers and continue to develop the talent we have on both sides of the ball," Trudo said.