Oak Ridge, TN. (WATE) – There are plenty of area teams that would celebrate back-to-back trips to the third round of the postseason. Oak Ridge are using their exits as motivation.

The Wildcats, bounced in consecutive seasons by Knoxville Catholic in the 5A state quarterfinals, return all five starters on the offensive line, but need to replace a host of talented stars from last year’s team, including quarterback and Mr. Football finalist Herbert Booker and running back Jordan Graham.

Entering his 18th season as Oak Ridge head coach and 37th overall, Joe Gaddis thinks this years schedule is the toughest the Wildcats have had since 1988, crediting what he thinks will be a vastly improved region mixed in with some out-of-area road trips.

“We need to get guys to grow up quickly,” Gaddis said. “Our depth is not great in certain areas. So we need to stay healthy in those areas and get experienced in others. If that all works out, we’ve got a chance to be a really good team by the end of the season. We have a lot of juniors on this team, and guys that haven’t played much in the heat of battle. We’ll see how they adapt and adjust and grow up early in the season.”

The Wildcats, who are 57-16 since Gaddis returned in 2013, open up at home against Hardin Valley on August 23rd.