Newark Rugby Club coach Ben Buxton is hoping his youngsters will continue to shine as his side targets promotion next season.
Buxton, who has just finished his first season with the club, praised the efforts of the younger players who broke into the first team.
He singled out scrum-half Billy Charles, fly-half Matthew Law and outside centre Charlie Dixon, who all came through the ranks and made a contribution to the senior team.
But Buxton said he feared he might lose some of his young talent as they went to university.
“They have played a massive part in the team this year and we have to fill the boots of these guys,” Buxton said.
“We have to look at some others players that could fill in. I’m a firm believer that if you are good enough you are old enough, and it doesn’t matter if you are 17 or 18.
“That is the only way the club is going to succeed.”
Newark had been hoping to bounce back into the Midlands 1 East division following relegation last year.
They finished sixth in the Midlands 2 East (North) division, however, ending the campaign with a 45-22 victory at Market Bosworth.
'We have come quite a distance in a short time'
Buxton said: “Everyone had us as favourites purely because we had come from the division above.
“We were tagged as one of the favourites to win it, which I thought was a little optimistic, given we had a new coach coming in who needed to identify areas we could work on.
“It was apparent we could possibly challenge for the title in the first months after coming down, but then we had dips in form.
“We have come quite a distance in a short time though. Towards the end of the season games we probably would have lost at the start we ended up winning — and that was a result of the character we built up in the players.”
Buxton said one of the biggest improvements was the belief the players gained.
He said: “It’s difficult to do that when [last season] you have lost more games than you have won and you end up relegated. Players ask questions of themselves.”
Buxton said the 27-20 win at Loughborough in December was a turning point in the season for the players because they began to believe in themselves.
“We want to build on and maintain our commitment from this year, particularly in the last four games of the season,” he said.
Buxton said he wanted his side to be the best for fitness and desire next season.
“Promotion is going to be one of the aims and that is going to be our focus, but we can also recognise little wins along the way,” he said.
“We didn’t go up this year but we had a lot of young players come through and get called up to represent their county.
“It’s high on the priority list to ensure promotion, but we have a duty to bring our youngsters through as well.”