The Rams had run off 11 straight victories before losing to Coeur d’Alene on a late touchdown in the title game.
“It’s huge motivation, especially for our returning seniors,” 2015 offensive lineman Tristen Hoge said of the season-ending loss. “I think that’s the thing that really put fire under our butts. It showed us that even though we got to the state championship, that that’s not enough.
“Getting there is not enough. Winning it is and not just winning it, we have to dominate in that game. That’s another force behind our team this year and I think that’s going to take us a long way.”
Hoge feels confident about this year’s squad, which will start double-sessions on Monday.
“We’re looking good this year,” the 6-foot-5, 290-pound offensive lineman said. “I think our starting lineup is as strong as I’ve seen since our freshman year. This is going to be a good year for us.”
The Notre Dame offensive line commit is fired up to get back on the field.
“Honestly, it gives me something to do during the week and if it’s football, everything is fun,” he said. “Double-days, I don’t look at them like everyone else. They’re fun for me.”
He intends to take on even larger leadership role as a senior to keep the squad together.
“As a team, it’s more the aspect of being a unit than anything,” said Hoge. “That’s a trial that’ll be put on my shoulders as far as everybody who wants to step up and be a leader. I think that’s the main point of emphasis for us this year.
“We’ve been plagued by injuries and it’s kind of the ‘Next Man In’ attitude. Anybody who can step up and make a play, that’ll be huge for us. It’s all about the attitude of wanting to play and I think our competitive edge has been stronger this year than it has been for the past few years. I think that’ll be thing that pulls us together.”
Personally, he’s excited about the prospect of opponents giving him their best in attempts to try to prove themselves against the future Irish offensive lineman.
“It’s always a challenge, I love it,” he laughed. “Having always been part of the crowd, nobody knowing who I was, it’s kind of different now knowing the kids are going to know who I am and what I’ve done.
“It puts a huge target on my back because everybody wants to be gunning for me and that’s definitely a good thing to be looking forward to. That lets me know the competition is going to be higher than it always has been and I’ll have dominate as much as I always have and more.”
Hoge will get back to South Bend next month for the Irish’s game against Michigan and will be joined several of his future classmates.
“I think that’s going to be a ton of fun, especially playing them for the last time,” he said of the Wolverines. “I think that’s going to be a huge event for the fans.
“With most of the 2015 committed class coming in that game, I think that’s going to be a prime opportunity for the class as a group to get to mold and get to know each other outside of social media and texting. I think it’ll be good to finally meet face to face with a lot of these players I’ll be playing with for the next four to five years.”