With a third head coach in the last three years, you might not expect much optimism heading into this season at Hoffman Estates.
But with Mike Donatucci at the helm for the Hawks, it is a whole different story.
"This group has really embraced learning," Donatucci said. "From the start of practice in the beginning of summer to right now, they have come a long way.
"I can't complain about any effort, because it has always been there. Our coaching staff has come together and we are working very hard."
Donatucci has just 17 seniors on his roster. He attributes that low number to the fact that when this group was sophomores, Hoffman Estates did not have a sophomore football team.
"It is all about attrition, "Donatucci said. "You have to keep those kids in the program and we are hoping to do a better job of that."
Offensively, the Hawks return just two starters on offense. Kabian Johnson, who is a huge threat at wide receiver, and Bademar Camacho (5-foot-10, 260 pounds) at offensive tackle will be the only two seniors that will start this year on offense.
"We are very young there," Donatucci said. "Kabian is our big-threat guy. He is skilled and very talented."
Jeff Mayes, who is a junior, will start at quarterback. Donte Cleveland will start at wide receiver and will back up Mayes, giving the Hawks some flexibility at offense.
The offensive line could feature two sophomores starting -- Zack Clark (6-3, 265) and Nathan Edwards (6-1, 215).
"We are undersized all across," Donatucci said. "But our technique and our understanding has to be at a higher level. That's what we are pushing for now."
The strength of Donatucci's teams has always been on defense. This year, it will be the forte for Hoffman Estates.
The Hawks have five returning starters. Defensive lineman Junior Castillo, linebacker David Baureis, safety Will Cage and cornerback Rainier Del Rosario will be they keys to Donatucci's defense. Defensive tackle Juan Giles and defensive end Tylic Grace, who are both seniors, also figure into Donatucci's defense along with Sean Henry.
"We have some guys who like to get after the ball," Donatucci said. "They have a good understanding on how to play defense."
Donatucci has begun to instill his family-style of coaching to all his players. They will have Thursday night dinners at the school and then the seniors will head to Donatucci's home for a bonfire, a tradition he started when he was at Fremd.
"It is just a way of bring the players together," Donatucci said. "They have a hill here as well, and we will do some of the activities on the hill like we did at Fremd. They actually started here first when I was an assistant."
Donatucci also will be looking forward to seeing his old team at the end of September, when the Hawks host the Vikings. It will be homecoming for Hoffman Estates, and a different sort of one for Donatucci.
"I loved my years at Fremd," Donatucci said. "But I really started my career here as an assistant. I am looking forward to the new traditions here."