LATHROP, Mo. — Anticipation fills the air at Lathrop High School as a fresh set of new running backs will fill the backfield this season for the Mules football team.

After a 14-1 campaign that ended in defeat by the hands of Blair Oaks in the state title game, Lathrop has some reloading to do. The Mules may have lost standout running backs in Hunter Sloan and Seth McKnight due to graduation, but coach Chris Holt has room to spare.

“We like what we have (in the backfield),” Holt said. “We’re really deep at the running back position, so we’re not looking to take a step backwards when it comes to running the football.”

The Mules didn’t let up more than 21 points in a game until they lost 54-0 to Blair Oaks. Holt is ready for his team to claim redemption.

“We did not like the way it ended last year,” Holt said. “Our intentions are to go back and right the wrong.”

Getting more time to shine as the tailback position will be seniors Tyler Paul, Tanner Dalinghaus and Caden Rardon. The backfield will consist of a single wing and a wing-t formation, which is classic Lathrop. Even with three senior backs manning Lathrop’s high-powered offense, Holt says his team won’t be short of playmakers.

“We’ve got a lot of depth in Nick Knight,” Holt said. “We’ve got some sophomores that are actually looking pretty solid, so we’ll have plenty of kids to get the ball to.”

With Paul coming in as a senior leader this season, he says he expects the offense, which averaged 46 points per game, to share the ball. This way, he and the other two starting seniors can save their legs.

“Luckily, we have a lot of dudes stepping up,” Paul said. “Hopefully we have a lot of young guys stepping up, so we have more rotations and we get more of a break out there.”

Coming back on offense as well is quarterback Blake Gordon, another senior ready to lead to lead the Mules’ run-pass-option offense.

“I’m still feeling really confident in who we have back,” Gordon said. “I’m feeling confident we’ll still be able to go out there and put up big numbers.”

The Mules will have most of their defense returning to a squad that gave up an average of just 10 points per game. Paul also plays at middle linebacker, and he presume the defenses’ mentality will stay the same.

“We do a lot of discipline,” Paul said. “Coach always says, ‘Tough team wins.’ We really just into a game thinking, ‘We’re gonna beat you.’ That’s just our mindset. You’re a good team; we don’t care about that. We’re gonna go in there, and we’re gonna beat you. You get a couple yards on us, we’re just gonna get pissed off, and we’re gonna take you out. We’re gonna lockdown this year.”

Despite losing in the state championship game, Paul keeps it rather simple for this season.

“I’m just ready to hit somebody,” Paul said. “I don’t have any buildup. I just out there and play. I’m a gamer.”

Derek Zimmerman-Guyer can be reached at derek.zguyer@newspressnow.com.