NEW CARLISLE -- For a point of reference, Craig Buzea popped in the video of last year's scrimmage with New Prairie on Tuesday.
Seconds later, he regretted the decision.
"We just turned it on to see and I couldn't even watch it, I said turn it off. That's how bad it was," the Crown Point coach said. "Execution-wise, we weren't lining up. Our guys had no idea."
Twelve months has made a big difference for Buzea and the Bulldogs, who met up with the Cougars for a feisty scrimmage Wednesday that wasn't short on woofing and posturing.
"We've got some things established," Buzea said. "Even (New Prairie coach) Casey (McKim) said, it's an unbelievable culture change. It takes time, right? You get a full off-season, you get some guys believing. I think they're playing harder. I think they're playing more confident. We're just happy the way our guys are competing. Even though our offense had a really nice first 10 minutes, I was more impressed with our defense, their energy, what they're bringing."
Crown Point's defensive staff has added former La Porte head coach David Ortiz and former Michigan City standout Ryan Isaac, who played for Buzea during his stint with the Wolves before going to Purdue.
"Dave's been a big asset, Ryan's brought a ton of juice for us," Buzea said. "You get guys like that who really do a good job of getting kids up, it makes a difference. It's contagious. It's early. We're not great by any stretch, but we're making strides."
The Bulldogs squeezed out a 5-5 season in Buzea's first year at CP, breaking a three-game losing streak against Lowell and knocking off Chesterton when it was 6-1. Their losses came to 6A regional champion Merrillville (twice), 5A regional champion Michigan City, 5A sectional champion Valparaiso and 2A state champion.
"I don't think our expectations were very high," Buzea said. "We beat a couple decent teams, we beat Chesterton on the road, we started believing a little bit. We played Merrillville a lot closer the second time (29-13). We did take a lot of momentum from that. When you get beat like we did the first time (50-12) and you're still in the game with three minutes to go, I think we took that to the weight room. The kids have gotten stronger."
While the schedule remains the same with Lowell, Andrean and Merrillville in the first three weeks, the big change comes at the end, where Crown Point's sectional no longer includes the Pirates, who are now in 5A. With a field of Lafayette Jefferson, Lake Central and Portage, post-season expectations are legitimate.
"We'll see. It's a long season," Buzea said. "We lack in certain areas, there's no question about it, that's our job as coaches to combat those things."
Crown Point scrimmaged at New Prairie on Wednesday. The Bulldogs look to improve on a 5-5 finish and vie for a sectional title in Craig Buzea's second season as head coach.