The Colo-Nesco football program will be undergoing a bit of a rebuilding phase in 2016 after the loss of a talented senior class, but that doesn’t mean the Royals won’t be able to field a competitive football team.

Colo-Nesco is coming off the best season in program history. In 2015, the Royals went 9-3 overall, placed third in 8-man District 5 with a 4-2 record and made it all the way to the state quarterfinals before succumbing to a powerful Newell-Fonda team.

That team was led by seniors Brady Stoeffler, Grant Tiarks, Tanner Clatt, Dacian Wilson, Michael Starling and Brandon Jacobs.

It will take a lot to replace that senior class. But the Royals still have plenty of weapons returning as they aim to be competitive in the district and eye a return to the playoffs.

“We will be a little bit young, (but) I really like our team this year,” Colo-Nesco head coach Josh Nessa said. “Very similar to last year. Really good positive attitudes, really into the team concept and very unselfish. It reminds me a lot of last year because the personalities are very similar.”

Colo-Nesco will remain in 8-man District 5. Nessa said the Royals’ top competition will be H-L-V — a team that edged out Colo-Nesco for second place in the district last year.

“We’ll face a lot of teams that we faced last year, which is going to help us quite a bit,” Nessa said. “Even some of the ones we picked up, like Moravia — even though they weren’t in our district, we played them in the playoffs (last year). I really like the teams in our district.”

The rest of 8-man District 5 will be made up of Melcher-Dallas, Meskwaki, Seymour Moulton-Udell, Tri-County and Twin Cedars.

In non-district play the Royals face AGWSR and Coon Rapids-Bayard on the road in the first two weeks of the season.

It will be more difficult to make it back to the playoffs this fall. The field has narrowed from 32 teams to 16 — leaving only two qualifiers per district in 8-man instead of four.

“It’s definitely going to be tougher for us to get in, so that’ll be a challenge we have to rise to,” Nessa said. “I kind of like the challenge. Hopefully we’ll do something we haven’t done yet — all but one time since I’ve been here the last eight years we’ve been the No. 3 or No. 4 team (in the district). I think we have a good shot at being one of those (top) two teams.”

On offense, Colo-Nesco will run out of spread and I-formations. The Royals will be playing out of a lot of Wildcat formations and they will count heavily on senior tailback Garret Tiarks, who ran for 1,589 yards and 27 touchdowns last year.

“He’s definitely going to be the guy we use the most,” Nessa said. “His experience will be great because he’s been playing that position for two years now. I think he is ready for that responsibility.”

Taking over for Stoeffler at quarterback will be junior Philip Bower.

“He was our return guy (last year) and is very shifty,” Nessa said. “He’s improved his mechanics and accuracy a lot from last year. He has looked really good so far in the preseason.”

End Garrett Packer — a junior — also received some carries last year and he will be counted on as a weapon for the Royals on offense this fall. In 2015, Packer ran for 225 yards and four touchdowns

“We did move Packer to end in some of our formations — just depends on the formation,” Nessa said. “He’ll still get some touches, I’m sure.”

Senior Wayne Beard will also get some carries in the backfield. He ran for 235 yards and five touchdowns on an impressive 11.2 yards per carry last season.

Senior Parker Eley and junior Mason Lytle will help out at end.

On the offensive line Colo-Nesco brings back junior Bryce Niemeyer. The Royals will also have juniors Jacob Clatt and Connor Clark and sophomores Adam Texeira and Colin Hall.

Colo-Nesco will operate out of a 3-4-1 on defense. Niemeyer, Hall, Texeira, Clatt and Clark will be on the defensive line, Tiarks, Packer, Lytle and Eley at linebacker, Beard in the defensive backfield and Bower at both defensive back and linebacker.

“We’re returning Bryce on the line and he might be playing defensive end more than last year,” Nessa said. “Garret Tiarks is obviously returning and Garrett Packer is returning. (Packer) is kind of a utility player — he started at linebacker most times, but he would move up to defensive end if we changed formations. Those three guys and their experience I think will really help us.”