Whether it was Tavian Tate or Mylan Mitchell, Rouse excelled at running the ball last season.
The dynamic duo returns this year to lead the group attack as the Raiders go back to a wide-open run-heavy offense they used five years ago as they look to make the playoffs for the second straight season.
"From the running back standpoint, we don't have just one hole that we have to hit anymore, we can go from one hole to five holes across the line," Tate said. "It just fits my plays type. I play loose with speed. I'm more aggressive than last year."
Mitchell was the Offensive Newcomer of the year as a sophomore last year after leading the team with 892 yards - including four 100-plus yard games - and five touchdowns, while Tate finished with 388 rushing yards and four touchdowns.
"We expect to compete for one of the playoff positions and push all our opponents," Rouse head coach Josh Mann said. "We're not going to lower expectations because of staff changes or kids graduating. We're kind of adopting the underdog mentality We're hungry. We got a taste of it last year by getting in the playoffs."
Offensively, Conner Canaday and Zach Pelt graduated from the offensive line, but Ayden Sharp and Alex Bagley return and have seen a lot of time up front.
"We got a couple new guys on varsity and I want to see us step up and take control," said first-year offensive lineman Keegan New. "I feel like we'll be a lot better because the offensive line has a little more control over stuff we see and which way to go."
The receiving corps is young with Mark Botello (four receptions, 55 yards, one touchdown) the top returner other than Tate and Mitchell. Ethan Moore is back for his second year as the starting quarterback.
Rouse is returning up to eight starters on defense most notably in the secondary with seniors Cliff McCoy and Conner Shields and juniors Ugonnamdi Osemene and Isaiah Cash.
Top tacklers Alex Salazar and Cole Bresnehen, but the defensive front will be led by Lane Bresnehen, Chance Canlas and Kayne Adames at linebacker and Colin Dickinson and Derek Galloway along the offensive line.
"We've got a lot of experience," Mann said. "We picked up the level from last year defensibly and I think it's got the chance to be better."
The Raiders won three of their final five games last season to get into the playoffs as the No. 4 seed where they nearly pulled off a first-round upset but fell to Magnolia West 42-31. They averaged 25.75 points for and 27.4 points against doing district play.
Rouse opens the district season against Cedar Park at Gupton Stadium on Sept. 28 and follows that up with games against Pflugerville and Manor, both of which dropped down from Class 6A in the new realignment.
"I definitely want to make it to the playoffs again and have everybody as one culture and one team," defensive end Zach Ybarbo said. "The coaching has definitely ramped up and I love it. The senior class especially is holding the whole team accountable."