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Matt Buha might be crazy.

He might be right.

There's no question he's excited.

The MICDS football coach, Buha looks at a team that lost eight of its 11 starters on defense, its best receiver and sees the chance for something great.

“I think this team has the potential to be one of the better teams MICDS has seen in a long, long time,” Buha said.

It's been a long time coming for the Rams. A perennial contender and one of the most storied small school programs in the area, MICDS had its valleys. The Rams were the Class 4 runner-up in 2011. In the four years that followed, they finished under .500. The last two seasons they went 9-3 and finished as the district runner-up to Ladue, which reached the semifinals in 2016 and the Class 4 state championship game last season.

The success of those two seasons came despite significant losses to graduation. Buha believes it's a sign that the players at every level of the program have bought in.

“To repeat that success the next year helped solidify with our kids the type of program we have,” Buha said. “As good as we were last year, I think we're better this year. Our juniors grew up into seniors and we have a lot of juniors who are going to contribute.”

MICDS is the No. 7 small school in the STLhighschoolsports.com preseason rankings.

The Rams aren't a completely different team, at least not on offense. Senior quarterback Graham Bundy Jr. returns for his third season as the starter. An excellent overall athlete, Bundy was showered with awards this summer, including being named the Post-Dispatch All-Metro boys lacrosse player of the year.

MICDS runs an option offense that lets Bundy (6 foot, 170 pounds) use his speed. He rushed for 718 yards and 13 touchdowns last season. He improved as a passer as he completed 69 of his 155 attempts for 1,200 yards and 11 touchdowns with two interceptions.

“He's so fast and so competitive,” Buha said of Bundy. “The way he runs is different this year. There's no bounds on his skill set. He's having a good fall (camp).”

Protecting his neck and clearing the way will be returning offensive lineman Jimmy Chalfant (6-0, 210), junior Gerald Bentley (6-0, 220), junior Luke Bernstein (6-6, 215) and sophomore Raphael Sowah (6-3, 340).

“It's the biggest offensive line we've had in at least the last 10 years,” Buha said. “For an option offense it gets our guys pretty excited.”

Senior Tyler Purdy (5-11, 175) was the primary running back last season when he rushed for 662 yards and six touchdowns. He'll shift over to a slot receiver role that will allow him to catch more passes but also do more damage in the run game. Sophomore Nate Smith (5-11, 155) will also be in a slot position.

“We have the ability to stretch the field both ways,” Buha said.

The defense lost all but three of its starters but won't be completely full of varsity rookies. Bundy will step in and play safety this season. The massive offensive line will take its share of reps on the defensive side as well.

Junior Darion Smith (6-3, 196) had 59 tackles and four sacks as a sophomore to lead the returners. Purdy was right behind him with 58 tackles. Junior defensive back Blake Glover (6-0, 170) had 50 tackles and two interceptions.

The schedule will throw the new-look Rams right into the fire as they play at McCluer South-Berkeley in Week 1. The next week they open at home with a Park Hills Central team that has won the last two meetings by a combined six points.

“Opening up with those two schools will be good for us,” Buha said.

2018 area football schedules

Plan your calendar for the 2018 high school football season, all in one place. For any corrections or additions, please email stats@stltoday.com

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