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ST. CHARLES — There were no silver linings for St. Charles West running back Dominic Flint.

No consolation prize.

Losing to eventual state champion Trinity 39-6 in district play did not feel good.

It was a season-ending loss — and it hurt.

"For us, we had high expectations," Flint said. "After that first game, we had a drive in us and we knew what we were capable of. (It didn't matter that) they won state. If we could have gotten past them, that could have been us."

After an offseason of waiting, Flint and the Warriors are excited to get back and redeem themselves.

"They had a really great summer lifting and we're a lot stronger and faster," St. Charles West coach Gary Strauss said. "I believe we're a little bit more focused, too. They know what's at stake and they worked really hard to put themselves into this position. They expect to do well. I know they're expecting to go farther than districts this year."

Clocking in at No. 7 in the STLhighschoolsports.com small-school preseason rankings, St. Charles West is looking to break through after reaching the district championship game three consecutive seasons. The Warriors return 17 starters from an 8-4 team that fell to the eventual Class 3 state champions.

That third successive district title loss in as many years didn't sit well with senior running back Jamesen Reese either.

"We've gotten there and we've been so close the past three years, but we just couldn't do it," Reese said. "This is our last time to prove ourselves. I've been in the program for the past three years and, for the past three years, we haven't made it. I know I'm going to do everything I can to get us that district championship."

The Warriors spent the entire offseason gearing up for this campaign.

"I think we had a better showing in summer workouts," senior offensive lineman Stephen Frazer said. "I thought the environment was better and people were more upbeat and more excited to be there."

Leading the charge is the one-two running back punch of Flint and Reese. Flint led the way with 1,020 yards with Reese nipping at his heels with 1,016 yards. Reese scored 14 touchdowns while Flint had 11.

Orchestrating the offense behind center will be senior Brendan Sportsman, who complete two of four passes for 36 yards in one game last season.

While the season-ending loss has weighed heavily on the minds of the coaches, the slow start to the past three seasons has been something the team needs to change.

"We've got to come out in these first two or three games, we've always dug ourselves a hole and we've ended up on the road the last three years in the district championship because we've started out slow," Strauss said.

In the past three years, the Warriors have started the season either 1-2 or 0-3.

"Those first couple of games, we've got to start out fast," Flint said. "If we would have won those (last season), it could have given us home-field advantage."

Having a potent and punishing ground game will help a defense that returns nine starters from last year.

"If we can control the clock and score, it doesn't give them a lot of time," Strauss said. "It forces them to get out of their comfort zone and maybe throw the ball more than they want to. It plays hand in hand."

West is looking for more than just its first district crown since 2014.

"I'm sure everyone has their individual goals, but when push comes to shove, those don't matter," Reese said. "We want that team goal of a state championship and that ring on our fingers. That's what we want. That's what matters."

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