Glenbard East's football team may not have earned many wins last season, but it did gain something valuable: experience.
With 10 seniors starting on offense and defense -- and in the second season under coach John Walters -- the Rams hope to hit the ground running at full speed. Five starters return on each side of the ball.
"In football, especially in the (DuPage Valley Conference), you're going to win with seniors," Walters said. "We're going to have a lot of them on the field, so we'll see if we can have more success."
Confidence runs high on offense, and it goes beyond the return of quarterback Joe Kotch, who last season threw for 1,053 yards and rushed for 222. Malysha Flanders, a running back last year, is attracting college interest as a receiver.
The receiving corps is deep with receivers Danny Ryan and Mike Kjeldsen and 6-foot-6 tight end Brandon Havenga. Running back Javante Burnett returns to the backfield in front of returning linemen Josh Sullivan and Shane Vincent.
"(Kotch) has full command of the offense now," Walters said. "I think he's going to be a lot better because he has so many more targets. Three of our top four receivers last year were out with injury after Week 2."
Injuries also hurt the Rams on defense. Linebacker Gustavo Garcia is back after missing four games. Jordan Abushanab, Tre Conley and Drew Keller add to the linebacker mix that combines size and speed.
They'll try to limit the explosion plays that hampered the Rams throughout last season. Jake Lueck and Tom Lyons should help by returning to the secondary.
After allowing at least 40 points five times last season, limiting big plays is an obvious defensive focus. With all the experience on this year's team, it's something the players remember all too well.
"We're starting to learn what it takes to win in this conference," Walters said. "We can't make the same mistakes we made last year."
-- Kevin Schmit
Coach: John Walters (second year; third year overall, 3-15).
2011 record: 1-8, 0-7 in DuPage Valley Conference.
Top players: Joe Kotch (QB, 5-11, 195, sr.); Malysha Flanders (WR, 6-3, 205, sr.); Gustavo Garcia (LB, 5-9, 165, sr.); Everardo Urbina (DL, 5-6, 170, sr.); Javante Burnett (RB, 5-11, 193, sr.); Josh Sullivan (OL, 5-9, 260, sr.); Shane Vincent (OL, 5-11, 175, sr.); Jordan Abushanab (LB, 5-11, 185, sr.); Brandon Havenga (TE, 6-6, 175, sr.); Jake Lueck (DB, 6-1, 190, sr.); Tom Lyons (DB, 6-0, 180, sr.).
Fri, 8/24, Glenbard East at Willowbrook, 7:30 p.m.
Fri, 8/31, Lake Park at Glenbard East, 7:30 p.m.
Fri, 9/7, Naperville Central at Glenbard East, 7:30 p.m.
Fri, 9/14, Glenbard East at Glenbard North, 7:30 p.m.
Fri, 9/21, Wheaton North at Glenbard East, 7:30 p.m.
Fri, 9/28, Glenbard East at Naperville North, 7:30 p.m.
Fri, 10/5, West Chicago at Glenbard East, 7:30 p.m.
Fri, 10/12, Glenbard East at WW South, 7:30 p.m.
Fri, 10/19, West Aurora at Glenbard East, 7:30 p.m.