Make no mistake about it, last season was a humbling experience for Wheaton Warrenville South's football team.
Regardless of a brutally tough schedule and the suffering of tough defeats, there's no denying the disappointment the Tigers felt in missing the playoffs for the first time since 2002.
If there's a silver lining, though, it's the new attitude in the program. Not surprisingly, it's similar to the old attitude.
"When you go 4-5 you appreciate what you want to be," said Tigers coach Ron Muhitch. "It's been a good experience for us. You go through reality checks in athletics, and we had one last season."
Muhitch points to last season's struggles at the skill positions as a potential area of strength this year. Quarterback Ryan Graham enters his third varsity season after throwing for 928 yards and rushing for 510 yards as a junior.
Despite graduating all his starting running backs and receivers -- not to mention four offensive linemen, the lone returner being Will Calloway -- Muhitch believes the Tigers are poised to be much improved on offense.
Isaiah Campos and Zach Moberg each scored 5 rushing touchdowns last season. Receivers Savone Carter, Keishawn Watson, Dan Sveen and tight end Connor Ostrander had tremendous summers. Look for Josh Krueger, last season's sophomore quarterback, to contribute at receiver and possibly running back.
"I think the fact that we had a lot of options in the summer says a lot about Ryan," Muhitch said. "It just makes us a better team when he's able to distribute it."
Defensive back Jake Schultz heads the list of four returning defensive starters. Joe Machalek and Joe Kazar, defensive ends last year, shift to linebacker while Mocha Uchiyama is back up front.
Once again the Tigers are faced with a difficult opening slate of games with Glenbard West, Maine South and Wheaton North the first three weeks.
Daunting as it may be, WW South looks at it as an opportunity to erase the struggles of last season.
"The Tigers are never going to shy away from competition," Muhitch said. "We'll be ready."
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Fri, 8/30 Glenbard West at WW South 7:30 p.m.
Fri, 9/6 WW South at Maine South 7 p.m.
Fri, 9/13 Wheaton North at WW South 7:30 p.m.
Fri, 9/20 West Aurora at WW South 7:30 p.m.
Fri, 9/27 WW South at Naperville North 7:30 p.m.
Fri, 10/4 Naperville Central at WW South 7:30 p.m.
Fri, 10/11 Lake Park at WW South 7:30 p.m.
Fri, 10/18 WW South at Glenbard North 7:30 p.m.
Fri, 10/25 WW South at Glenbard East 7:30 p.m.