Mansfield Lake RidgeDistrict: 14-5A Last season: 2-8, 1-6 District 15-4A Key players: QB Jett Duffey (6-0, 175); RB Duke Carter (5-9, 172); C Alec Byrd (5-10, 185); OL Aurelio Cepeda (5-9, 195); NT Bronsyn Smith (5-10, 270) The big picture: After finishing 0-10 in 2012, there was no direction to go but up for Lake Ridge, and the Eagles did last season. The Eagles opened their 2013 season with the school’s first victory in a triple-overtime thriller at Burleson Centennial. The Eagles won only one more game, but lost four by three points or less. It’s time for the Eagles to take the next step and with another large returning group of lettermen — seven starters on offense and nine on defense — Lake Ridge has the potential to become something more. “Last year our kids learned how to compete in football games,” said coach Kirk Thor, who encourages his team to take everything one day at a time instead of looking at the bigger picture. Talk to the players and it’s easy to see they’ve bought in and have realistic ideas about who they are and what they’re trying to achieve. The Eagles run a quick-snap, “fast break” offense, and with both Jett Duffey and Duke Carter another year more experienced in the offense, the Eagles should test defenses. Kendall DeWitt moves from the line to fullback and adds size to the backfield. Defensively, the Eagles blitz often and try to create havoc. The gambles can lead to big plays for opposing teams, but the additional year of experience should limit the breakdowns. One area Thor feels can be an advantage for his team in close games this season is kicker Taylor Lampe, a steady performer with a strong leg. “He can win some games for us this year, there’s no doubt in my mind,” Thor said. Quotable: “I think our kids are older and more mature, and they’re just trying to take the next step in building a football program.” — coach Kirk Thor“I believe our mantra this year is ‘finishing.’ There was a lot of games last season that we lost by one point or three points. So right now it’s just finishing and trying to win. I believe we have a great shot at the playoffs this year because we’ve come together as a team, and we’re not as young as we used to be and have a lot of experience.” — QB Jett Duffy Notable: In 2012, Lake Ridge lost 10 games and had a scoring differential of minus-54 points a game. Last season, the Eagles lost eight games but had a scoring differential of minus-12 per game.