LEROY — Pine River graduated key players from its 2015 district championship football team.

But coach Terry Martin likes what his Bucks will present this season.

Key returning players include quarterback Mason Powell, linebacker and fullback Dominic Garcia, slotback and outside linebacker Payton Pacola, plus offensive lineman Chase Morrison.

“On offense, we lost some specialty positions, our fullback and two slots,” Martin said. “One of our receivers graduated. On the defensive side, we’re returning a lot of guys at the same position. 

“So far, practices have gone well. The tempo has been good, the kids are excited. Defensively, I think we’ll be faster and stronger than we were last year.”

Action starts Friday at Kalkaska. Martin expects a tough non-league slate with the likes of Mancelona, Northpointe Christian and Berrien Springs.

“Our Highland schedule will be improved,” Martin said. “Everyone in the league got better this year. I think our schedule is a little tougher than it was a year ago.”

Pine River scrimmaged at Manistee on Friday.

“It gave us the opportunity to see some pretty good competition,” Martin said. “We have a mixture of different offensive and defensive fronts. I’m  happy with how we walked away.”

Kalkaska was 2-7 last season.

“I’m expecting a lot of improvement,” Martin said. “They return a lot of kids. Last year was a rough go for them. They lost a lot of staters. They’ll probably be better this season.”