Some key players graduated from last year's undefeated West Suburban Gold championship squad, but veteran Leyden coach Tom Cerasani is hoping his inexperienced team can quickly come together.
The former Schaumburg quarterback, an all-area selection in 1990, graduated two of his own all-area picks from a stingy defense last season.
They were Javier Rhoades and and Adam Morrison, who were instrumental in the Eagles allowing just 12 points per game. Morrison finished with 80 tackles, 4 forced fumbles, 3 fumble recovers, an interception and a sack.
Rhoades, a two-way standout, finished with 45 tackles, 8 sacks and an interception return for a TD while also catching 10 passes for 290 yards and 2 TDs.
"Overall, this team is very athletic but very inexperienced," Cerasani said. "The juniors will need to grow up quickly and contribute if we are going to be successful. Obviously, we need to stay healthy because we are not very deep."
Key returners include junior center Gunnar Schifferl, senior defensive and offensive lineman Henry Holguin, senior defensive end and tight end Quintin Morgan, senior linebacker-offensive lineman Wil Napier, senior linebacker-running back Keenon Davis and senior tailback Aaron Whigham.
Cerasani said the Eagles are very athletic with good overall team speed.
"We'd like to make the playoffs and win conference again," he said.
Last season, the Eagles finished 7-3 and won their first outright WSC divisional title since 1979 by beating Proviso East 18-7.
Running the offense will be junior quarterback Tom Pajor.
"He will have to step in and be a leader," Cerasani said. "Our offense will be very similar to previous years, with a few new wrinkles. We are a zone team. We will be about 60 percent run to and 40 percent pass. Defensively, Alex Rose (junior linebacker) will need to step up and lead."