TOPEKA (KSNT)- Topeka West football is looking to take a large step towards a program turnaround this fall.

The Chargers will have an easier schedule since they are no longer playing in the Centennial League. They also welcome a new head coach. Russell Norton brings loads of coaching experience to T-West football.

“We have come leaps and bounds from where we were just a few months ago,” Norton said. “They’ve bought into our brand. They’re excited about it and we’re moving forward.”

What better way to promote program buy-in than a fourth-year starting quarterback? That’s Malachi Berg.

“He leads from the front,” Norton said. “That’s how leaders do things. He’s been very intentional and responsible. He’s been selfless, committed and courageous.”

Berg is getting looks from some highly respected college programs. He knows switching schools could’ve potentially gotten him more attention from college programs, but that’s not how he rolls.

“I couldn’t leave my guys behind,” Berg said. “Stick it out. Ride it out. I’m excited to see what this season’s going to hold.”

The goal is to get everyone in the Topeka West High School community to take pride in their football program. Plus, the team wants more people to join the team, Norton said.

“We’re trying to hit that century mark,” Norton said. “We’re looking for a little over a hundred kids.”

He says football is a sport that teaches kids a lot. It’s a better option than many other things students could spend their time doing.

“It is nice to see kids leaving the street, or leaving the video game, and coming out here and playing football with us,” Norton said.

Junior defensive end Kris Thomas says things felt different starting on day one with Norton running the show.

“The energy was just different,” Thomas said. “It was a totally different energy… I just knew this year was going to be great.”

Topeka West opens its season one day earlier than most high school football teams in Kansas. They’ll play Seaman on Thursday, Sept. 1