QUINCY, IL. (WGEM) -- At first glance the Quincy Notre Dame captains are almost unrecognizable.
The preseason ritual of shaving designs in the hair of the veterans as a sign of solidarity has returned.
"This year (the) captains are really trying to bring everybody together and feel one as a family," senior Mitchell Maas said.
According to Rhett Magee, "I think it brings a lot of us closer together, just being unique, and doing our own thing like that."
Quarterback Nick Wellman takes control of the offense and he'll have plenty of help with the likes of running backs Dalton Venvertloh and Mitchell Maas, tight end Brady Gilliland, and top target Reed Hyer at receiver.
"In my 26 years I don't know if I've ever had anybody like him," Connell said of Hyer.
"He just wants to go to the ball (and) he wants to go make a play on the ball."
Hyer added: "We're still trying to figure it out with a new team but we got a lot coming back. I'm really excited to see how we can work together and bring back the plan of last year, and try to throw the ball. We can put the ball on the ground, too. I think we'll be a diverse team."
Wellman is in charge after winning both of his starts last season.
"It's just nice walking up to the play and looking around and seeing everybody," he said. "There's so many playmakers around."
The offensive line isn't short on size or talent either, especially with book-end tackles Jonny Bottorff and Magee.
"(Last) year was the first time in a long time we haven't had a 1,000-yard rusher. We're looking to make that happen again with a lot of the big guys coming back - Rhett (Magee), Hunter Smith, Aaron Moore, (and) Evan Reis," Maas said.
"It will look good having those guys back out there pushing us along."
Linebacker Jackson Connell spearheads a defense anxious to prove last year's 30 points per game average for opponents won't be repeated.
"I think we might have the best defense we've had since I started my sophomore year," Jackson said.
"We know where to go, we're aggressive, and we like to fly around to the ball."
The Raiders are willing to do whatever it takes to return to the postseason. Last season's four-win finish left them out of the playoffs for the first time since 2002.
"We just want to start the (playoff) streak again and we don't want to start up a streak where we're used to losing," Jackson explained. "We want to get the winning habit back in this program."
The head coach is banking on his veterans to lead them down a successful road.
"We're used to making the playoffs (and) we're used to winning playoff games," Bill Connell said.
"For us to walk off the field in October, and not be playing in the November, it's a huge motivational factor to get back in the playoffs, and get things going the Notre Dame way."