ENDICOTT, N.Y. (WIVT/WBGH) – The Union-Endicott Tigers have returned to the practice field, looking to follow their impressive playoff run from last year with another strong season in 2023.

The U-E Tigers return for the 2023 season after one of the most successful years in program history.

The Tigers reached the state championship game for the first time, adding some memorable wins in the process.

Entering this year, U-E is bringing that confidence with them from last season, but they know it’s a new year.

“It’s great to jump start,” Head Coach Tommy Baleno said. “We have a little positive energy and a little bit of a swag to us, right, from last year. But last year’s over and it’s done, so guys have to step up.”

Among those who need to step up are the new players, as the Tigers graduated most of their core from last season, meaning that this year’s leaders will be as crucial as ever.

“You always have captains, and you always have team leaders,” Baleno said. “But we have to do a good job of coaching our young men, not just coaching them as being good football players but coaching them as being leaders.”

With so many new faces on the roster, the starting 11 will look a little different than it did last year, with Baleno saying there are 22 starting jobs open heading into the season.

“Like I said, there’s starting positions all across the board,” Baleno said. “So, we’re not quite sure what the depth chart looks like, it changes from day to day.”

With just under 3 weeks until the season begins, a lot of work has to be done, but the coaching staff is looking for growth in more than just the way the team plays the game.

“That team chemistry,” Baleno said. “When you start building and bonding together, that’s gonna make a big difference for this team.”

One of the key ingredients to any winning program.

Something the Tigers will hope to use to their advantage this season as they defend their section title once more.