There's a buzz about Dover football this season that's been absent for a while.
After battling bigger Division I schools, and losing, the past two seasons, the Eagles are moving to Division II of the York-Adams League.
A new division is only part of the makeover. The players will wear new uniforms and play on a new artificial turf surface in a new stadium.
"It's an exciting time to be a Dover football player," Eagles' head coach Bill Miller said. "The kids couldn't ask for anything more."
Miller said the move to Division II, and the chance to compete against schools closer to Dover's size, has given the players a level of confidence going into the season that was lacking the last few seasons.
Miller's program has to replace a starting quarterback, offensive and defensive linemen and linebackers from the 2009 team.
One of this year's linebackers, Josh Firestone, represented Dover at the league's Media Day last Thursday, along with senior lineman Jeremiah Middleton and senior quarterback/linebacker Dan Mikos.
Firestone, who's also a tight end, is happy that his team will have a different schedule in his final season.
"Before this year, we were playing teams with two or three times more players," Firestone said. "We would look over to the other sideline, and it would be full of players. Meanwhile, we had 30 guys who were healthy."
Miller expects a turnout in the mid to high 40s on Monday, the opening day of practice for the upcoming season.
Dover is coming off an 0-10 finish in 2009. The Eagles were 1-9 in 2008.
"We've been down this road before moving from Division I to II," Miller said. "In 2001, we were 0-10 in Division I and we were 5-5 the next year in Division II."
The Eagles remained in Division II through the 2007 season, finishing with a 6-4 record that year.
After two years in Division I, Dover will get reacquainted with some of its former Division II rivals, including West York, which for many years was Dover's biggest opponent.
The Eagles and Bulldogs began their Route 74 North rivalry in, appropriately, 1974. The series is tied 17-17-0.
"We'll know a lot of people on that team (West York)," Firestone said. "If we want to compete with all our opponents and win the division, that's the game we have to have."
Firestone and his teammates aren't just aiming for victories. They're looking to regain respect for the program.
"A lot of people in school tell us we're not that good," he said. "If we turn things around, that will prove them wrong.
"Everything is new this year. It's a fresh start and time to forget the past."
Reach Dick VanOlinda at dvanolinda@yorkdis patch.com or 505-5407.