WASKOM -- The Waskom Wildcats haven't lost in almost two calendar years -- a string of 31 consecutive victories.

And as Waskom hit the practice field for the first time in 2016 on Monday morning, Wildcats head coach Whitney Keeling sees no reason why the streak can't continue.

“Every group’s new, that’s for sure," said Keeling, whose program is 45-2 the last three seasons. "We’re excited about the group we have and we’re excited about the offseason we had. When we get into pads, we can figure out more where people are going to be at.

"That’s the good thing about our kids: they’ve worked extremely hard to get to this point and they want to keep it going.”

But it's not as if the players don't already know what is expected from them.

“I mean I don’t think I really have to mention it; they already know," Keeling said. "I didn’t go into this morning’s meeting talking about it. I just told them that I wanted them to work extremely hard, wanted them to give great effort.

"There are a lot of positions that are open, and there’s a lot of competition that we’re hoping comes out in them. As the scrimmages go along we hope that it plays itself out the way that we expect it to.”

Waskom graduated 15 starters from last year's 16-0 team -- none bigger than four-year letterman Chan Amie, an SMU signee who earned championship game MVP honors in both 2014 and 2015.

Amie capped a stellar high school career with a senior season that included 2,415 rushing yards and 36 touchdowns, along with 190 tackles (44 for loss), nine sacks, and five forced fumbles.

“We’ve had a lot of really good players, and Chan was one of them that obviously is going to be hard to replace," Keeling said. "We’re not really expecting anybody to be Chan Amie. We’re expecting a lot of guys to hopefully fill in to that role."

But it wasn't only about what Amie brought to the field as a player.

"Chan was not only a great football player, he was a huge emotional leader," Keeling said. "He had that desire to win that we hope that some of these guys have learned. That is a huge challenge for our football team: to get that somebody to be that emotional leader out there on the field because the coaches are on the sideline. That’s something we’ve talked about, and hopefully somebody will step up.”

Keeling is banking on a talented group of underclassmen, who have witnessed the program's prior accomplishments from afar, carrying on the torch this fall.

“Those guys get to see us play at the those big stadiums, and they get to see us play in the state championship games," he said. "And they say that’s where they want to be, that’s what they want to do. Of course every year’s different, but definitely I think those younger kids have high expectations of themselves moving forward.”

Waskom opens the season Aug. 26 at Jefferson, and begins District 9-3A Division II play Sept. 23 at home against Arp.