Last season was not the kind coach Roger Robben envisioned his team going through last year. While the Orioles have only won one game in his first two years, Robben knew there would be tough times as he works to rebuild the program. Rather than dwell on past failures, though, Robben wants his team to embrace the challenge. “When you haven't had success, it becomes easier to give in, quit, not play as hard or expect that you won't do things well,” Robben said, “…instead of fighting back and fighting through and persevering. Not an easy message to sell, but Robben said he's seen the team stick together and work through challenges better. “They're more of a group. They're more united. That's the part that's encouraging,” Robben said. “Since I've been here, I haven't had kids talking to each other and building each other up.” The Orioles may have a little more optimism for this coming season. They have nine returning starters on offense. While young last year, Robben said the group started to understand what it takes to be successful. Tristan Finch emerged as the Orioles' leader and a primary playmaker at the quarterback position. He's fast and can run with the football, and he's not afraid to make passes downfield. “Tristan is the one who knows how to run our offense, runs it the most effective, and he's stepping up as a leader,” Robben said. “He's a playmaker. He made plays for us last year, and I think he'll continue to do so this year.” Robben has worked with Finch, normally a quiet guy in the group, to be more of a vocal leader, which has been helpful. Finch will have more playmakers around him than the Orioles have had in recent times. Connor Hurst emerged as a legitimate deep-threat receiver with blazing speed, but he could see more time in the backfield. Nate Johnson should be a valuable asset at tight end, and he's improved as a blocker, as well. The backfield will have a lot of role players who can step in to carry the ball. Robben said he'll probably spread the load until someone emerges as the primary carrier. Anthony Castillo and Preston Patterson are all in the running for the fullback position. Trae Goken, who was injured last year, could emerge as that primary running back. Receivers will include Caleb Dunn, Tanner Brown and Tyler Hammond. One of the Orioles' biggest struggles last year was at offensive line. Augusta was undersized in just about every game, and the offense really had little chance to be totally effective. But the line returns All-Leaguer Colby Willis as well as Roy Chen and Greg Slaton. Newcomer Matt Helmick could help solidify the line. If the offensive line can improve, every other aspect of the Orioles' offense should improve, too. On the defensive side, Augusta returns six starters, but Robben has been tweaking the lineup to maximize his personnel, as some guys are learning new positions. The secondary, which struggled last year, should be much improved. Hurst (corner) and Finch (safety) will have a year under their belt at the positions. Brown, Hammond and Chase Hull should see time in the secondary, as well. Brett Hamilton returns as one of the team's top linebackers. Hill and Slaton will compete for time at linebacker, as well. A lot of the front seven will be playing both sides of the ball, so conditioning will be a key factor for them. Augusta 2012 schedule Aug. 31 v. Circle Sept. 7 @ Mulvane Spet. 14 @ Wellington Sept. 21 v. Clearwater Sept. 28 v. Andale Oct. 5 @ Ark City Oct. 12 @ Rose Hill Oct. 19 v. Wichita Trinity Oct. 25 @ Wichita Collegiate KEY RETURNING PLAYERS Tristan Finch (Jr) 5-9, 165 QB/DB Colby Willis (Sr) 5-10, 205 OL/DL Anthony Castillo (Jr) 6-1, 178 RB/LB Roy Chen (Sr) 6-3, 220 OL/DL Brett Hamilton (Sr) 5-11, 165 TE/LB Connor Hurst (Soph) 6-1, 174 RB/DB Nate Johnson (Sr) 6-2, 220 TE/OLB