DUBLIN, Va. -

A new era of football has started at Pulaski County High School, with Stephen James coming over from Fort Chiswell to lead the Cougars. While he's stepping into a job in which his team hasn't had a winning season since 2008, so far things are going smoothly.

"Obviously the facilities are extremely good here at Pulaski. That's probably been one of the biggest things so far,” said James. “The kids' work ethic's been great so that's been a positive, too. As an individual, as a coach, you know you always feel pressure because you want to be successful. You want your teams to be successful and basically you want your program to be successful.

"It's been great. They brought a lot of new good stuff in. It's a lot tougher but it's better for the football team,” said senior runningback/cornerback Marcus Payne.

“The coaches we have now, they see more potential in us than the other coaches. I don't mean that in a bad way but they just seem more potential. They see us being greater than what we were," Payne said.

To get the Cougars back above 500 and back to the playoffs again, Coach James has emphasized being physical and putting-in time in the weight room this off-season. The players have answered the call and soon it'll be time to see if the hard work has paid off.

"We've had some good gains over the summer with the strength program so you know we're hoping that will equate to some better things as far as the games go,” James said.

"We have a lot of good potential, I guess you could say and we work a lot harder too-- a lot of work ethic and we're just getting after it,” said Payne.