REED CITY -- Several key returning players like Ryan Willis are among the reasons some Central State Activities Association observers consider the Coyotes as the team to beat in the conference this season.

Willis a 6-foot, 170-pound senior tight end, will play that spot again plus various roles on defense. He was busy during the offseason with 7-on-7 passing camps and plenty of weight-lifting.

“I’ve improved quite a bit,” Willis said. “I’ll be doing a lot of blocking, will run pass routes here and there.”

It remains to be seen but Willis suspects the Coyotes might be putting the ball in the air a little more this season.

The Coyotes were 9-0 during the regular season last fall and 1-1 in the playoffs. Willis likes what he sees of the team during the preseason. The season kicks off Aug. 24 at Big Rapids.

“It’s looking pretty good,“ he said. “We have a lot of young kids stepping up.”

The main goal is “just coming together as a team,” Willis added, noting that “speed and quickness” will be key team strengths.

It will be a tough schedule but Willis and his teammates aren’t looking past the Cardinals.

“We have to go get them,” he said.