ROSENDALE, Mo. — After a tough season full of injuries, the North Andrew Cardinals are back on their feet.

North Andrew’s football program holds six state titles, with the last one being in 2016.

“When I came in last year, our goal was to get back to that level of play and I’m hopeful this year will be the year we get back to that,” North Andrew coach Dwayne Williams said.

The Cardinals began with 20 players last year. By the end of their campaign, North Andrew was down to 14 due to injuries.

“It was difficult, especially when a lot of your starters are out with ACL injuries and all that kind of stuff,” North Andrew senior Wyman Wheeler said.

The Cardinals went 6-5 last season, losing to Mound City in the district title game.

“Last year was a little disappointing, but a lot of people didn’t think we could get as far as we did.”

With a big incoming freshman class and several new upperclassmen coming out to play this fall, the Cardinals have grown to more than 30 players.

“We’re able to go back and forth at practice and be a lot more intense,” North Andrew senior McKinley Lillard said. “If you mess up, there’s always another guy to step up behind you.”

Cardinals players said they have learned from last year’s obstacles.

“We want to make sure we can finish the season healthy,” Williams said. “We didn’t do a very good job last year of managing the health situation at times. Because our numbers were so low, we played some guys that maybe should’ve taken a week off. So we want to be better about that so we can be fresher at the end.”

Thirteen freshmen joined the squad this season, and they will be led by 10 seniors.

“This year we have a lot of freshmen on the team, our starting center is a freshman. We want to encourage them to keep on working and keep on pursuing the victory goal throughout their high school careers,” Wheeler said.

The Cardinals look to advance further and stay healthier this fall. The team’s 2019 campaign begins Friday, Aug. 30.

Kristen Carver can be reached

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