They've moved to Class 5A, and in a week the Bishop Dwenger Saints will play a true home game for the first time when they open a sparkling new stadium.
But so many of the names on the roster are the same: Brenden Lytle, Griffin Eifert, Patrick Finley, Devon Tippmann ... And for the opening game of the season, so were the results.
Bishop Dwenger, the 2018 Class 4A state champions, made its debut in 5A on Friday night with an impressive 41-6 victory at Wayne, serving notice that the Saints' class may be different, but the story isn't.
“It for sure sets the tone for the rest of the season,'' said Eifert, a senior. “But I think we're going to get back to work, and now we're onto North Side and we're going to focus on them and leave this one in the past.”
As expected, the Saints' defense dominated, holding Wayne to a single score, coming early in the second quarter on a 1-yard run by Keshaun Fields.
“Outstanding,” Dwenger coach Jason Garrett said. “Having three new linebackers, those are the guys that make the calls, the guys who make the adjustments. I thought in particular (Lucas) Krohn and Devon stepped up.”
What may not have been expected, though, was the way Dwenger piled up 41 points, 35 of them in the first half. It was just last November that the Saints had to rally for a 14-13 win over the Generals in the sectional championship game.
This year, though, with an experienced junior quarterback in Lytle and a long list of talented receivers, the Saints threw the ball all over the place.
Lytle connected on 13-of-17 passes for 224 yards and two touchdowns, most of which came in the first half when the Saints built a 35-6 lead.
Eifert had three receptions for 103 yards, including a gorgeous 56-yard score late in the first half in which Lytle's pump fake resulted in Eifert being alone on the left sideline.
Patrick O'Keefe, who started last season at quarterback before giving way to Lytle, had four receptions and senior Blayne Huston had a 9-yard TD catch. Lytle and his receivers have been together for a year and they know each other well.
“It definitely helps that we're all returning starters or playmakers,” Eifert said. “Just our connection, on the field and off the field, it's like a brotherhood. We hang out almost every day throughout the week. I think that helps us be together.”
The lone newbie receiver, senior transfer Michael Ledo Jr., also had three catches for 65 yards and gives the Saints one of the area's best deep threats.
“We talked about it, especially with the receivers we've got this year, we're going to throw the ball a lot,” Lytle said. “We lost some linemen, but we're so together. The receivers, we spend every day just throwing routes, getting our timing out down. I feel a lot more comfortable, especially with the O-line, they've got my back.”
Dwenger's run game was not ignored as Devon Tippmann and Finley scored the Saints' first three touchdowns to help build a 21-6 lead.
Eifert scored with 1:10 left in the half, then Dwenger added a fifth score 32 seconds later as Krohn scored on a 1-yard run after Wayne fumbled the kickoff.
“I'm very proud of coach (Mark) Watts and the offensive staff,” Garrett said. “It's one of those things we realized in the offseason that we needed to do. As much as we love to run the ball and play that style of offense we knew we needed to get guys out of the box and do some other things.
“Obviously, we've got some playmakers and they stepped up tonight. A lot of that's from some of the maturity that was gained last year, with Lytle and Eifert and Finley and those guys.”