McCaskey had limped toward the finish line of a tepid 2019 season. The winless Red Tornado had been outscored 117-0 in the two games prior to its season finale at Wilson, before spotting the Bulldogs a 49-6 lead at the half.
But in the final two quarters of a 0-10 season, and a loss that extended the program's winless streak to 17 games, the Tornado rallied, scoring 20 unanswered points to give first-year coach Sam London something to build on.
"They were proud of their effort," London said. "It can kind of be a glimpse of what's to come. We played a boatload of young kids in that game, and a majority of them are back. It was encouraging to go into the offseason like that."
After an offseason plagued by uncertainty and pancake-blocked by a pandemic, London and his Tornado look to turn the proverbial page for the program.
About the offense
"We're going to be a running football team," London said. "That's who we are, and now we have the horses in place to do it."
The horses include seniors Donovan McAllister and Da-Vion Scarborough, junior Josiah Gray, and sophomore Matthew Remash, who saw time under center as a freshman last year.
Leading the charge is an offensive line anchored by seniors Raul Ramos and Ethan Lane.
"That's probably been, from the end of last season, our most committed group," London said of the offensive linemen. "The group that's really just pushing forward and has been always together. I think that'll be a difference for us right away."
About the defense
Lane and Ramos look to bring the same energy to the other side of the ball, alongside junior tackle Ja-hid Brown. They line up in front of sophomore Jose Garcia, who reprises his role as the starting middle linebacker, and a secondary that features Scarborough and senior Jah'Ciere Williams, a returning captain, at the corner positions.
Kicker/punter Sam Hershey, who earned a spot in the national Kohl's Kicking Scholarship Camp over the summer, was also a keystone to the Tornado's resurgence in boys soccer last fall, springing McCaskey to the league championship game and contributing to the team's first postseason win since 1996.
"Seeing what he was able to do with that soccer team last year definitely carries over to us," London said. "Our kids want that. Sam fits right in with what we're trying to do."
Key to the season
Consistency is the key ingredient required for a Tornado rise, an ingredient that seeps into everything from on-field play to attendance in Zoom meetings and weight-room sessions.
The Tornado has also been galvanized by the discourse over racial injustice in the offseason.
"When you're talking to kids and having open forums,” London said, “and hearing kids open up and vent about their own racial experiences and things that they've dealt with and their families have dealt with, you really get a chance to know people on a different level. And I've shared experiences, and my coaching staff has, too. Being able to be there for the kids during that time ... I feel like that helped us all come together."