This could be one of those years for Leyden.
Not only do the Eagles have the talent and experience with seven returning starters on both sides of the ball but coach Tom Cerasani sees the West Suburban Gold race as up for grabs.
That has Leyden looking to finish atop the Gold for the first time since 1998 when it shared the title. Its last playoff berth was in 2009 when it took second in the division and reached the second round of the Class 8A playoffs.
"We expect to be pretty good so there is a little more pressure," Cerasani said. "We've got a pretty good group. It's similar to that (2009) team.
"We have a really strong senior class and a ton of kids (70). We have a lot of good character and good leaders on the team."
And last year the Eagles had one of the area's leading defenses as their 261 yards allowed per game ranked third. Adam Morrison and Ivan Nevarez return at inside linebacker and junior Will Napier, a transfer from Mt. Carmel who sat out last year, should make an impact on the outside.
Cerasani said junior Henry Hologuin is one of the most athletic defensive tackles he's seen. Strong safety Anthony Aleman started the last five games last year.
"It's a real athletic defense," Cerasani said. "Morrison has a great nose for the football, we're athletic and aggressive in the secondary and the defensive line is tough."
Cerasani expects the offense to be much tougher after it averaged only 227 yards a game. Tailback Mickey Gulo (731 yards, 4 TDs) works behind a line that has experience with third-year starting guard Erik Herrera and size in sophomore Gunnar Schiferl (6-feet-3, 280 pounds).
Senior quarterback Mike Smith brings three dimensions of running, passing and intelligence. Cerasani likes how the receiving corps has progressed since Andrew Garcia and Jon Rodriguez didn't play much last year.
But this could be the year Leyden makes a successful run.
"I feel this is one of those teams."
Eagles at a glance
Coach: Tom Cerasani (eighth year, 28-38)
Last year: 3-6, 3-3 (4th WSC Gold)
Pos. Name Ht/Wt Yr.
QB Mike Smith 6-0/180 Sr.
TB Mickey Gulo 5-8/180 Sr.
LT David Flores 6-1/245 Sr.
LG Gunnar Schiferl 6-2/280 So.
C John Dyer 5-11/210 Sr.
RG Erik Herrera 6-0/251 Sr.
RT Raul Molina 6-0/255 Sr.
TE Javier Rhoades 6-3/255 Sr.
WR Andrew Garcia 6-0/165 Sr.
WR Jon Rodriguez 5-9/150 Sr.
WR Mickey Martinez 5-9/165 Sr.
Pos. Name Ht/Wt Yr.
DT Javier Rhoades 6-3/255 Sr.
NG Carlos Colon 5-10/220 Sr.
DT Henry Holguin 6-0/220 Jr.
OLB Will Napier 6-1/210 Jr.
ILB Adam Morrison 6-2/225 Sr.
ILB Ivan Nevarez 6-0/195 Sr.
OLB Andrew Vernola 5-7/185 Sr.
CB Aaron Whigham 5-10/190 Jr.
CB Mike Szopinski 5-9/170 Sr.
SS Anthony Aleman 5-10/175 Sr.
FS Keenan Davis 5-9/160 Jr.