WMBD/WYZZ-TV - NORMAL, Ill. - The doubters were out in full force after Normal West graduated 31 seniors from last year's playoff team.
"We had a lot of negative criticism in the offseason," said senior Cole Bumpus. "We didn't listen to it. We knew we'd come back. We worked hard in the offseason."
Replacing a gigantic senior class is one thing. Replacing that gigantic senior class, which had an all-state QB is another.
Replacing star quarterback Alex Jefferson him with a sophomore? That's been another reason the Wildcats have started the seaosn 5-1.
"He has a lot of the same character traits of Alex," said Normal west head coach Darren Hess. "Very selfless,intelligent, student of the game. It's an easy fit."
Mitch Fairfield is the guy following in Jefferson's footsteps. And the sophomore has the Wildcats in the hunt for a conference title and a fourth straight playoff berth.
"It's a great honor to follow in his footsteps," Fairfield said of Jefferson. "I remember last year sittin gin the press box and writing down the plays. Coach would point out what Alex was doing. I try to do what he did."
His first season as a varsity starter is going well. In fact, Fairfield admits this season is going way better than he imagined.
"To be honest, I didn't think I'd be a (varsity) quarterback,"' said Fairfield. "I thought I'd be with the JV, maybe have a chance next year."
But next year is now at Normal West.