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Welcome to the DuPage Valley Conference, Lake Park.
In other words, welcome to the meat-grinder.
The Lancers enter their first season in perhaps the state's best football conference as a bit of an unknown. The one absolute is that Lake Park won't be intimidated.
"We know we're going to be the underdog," said Lancers coach Chris Roll. "But we're used to playing tough competition like Neuqua Valley, Waubonsie, Batavia. We'll see what happens."
After allowing more than 40 points three times last season, the Lancers know they must shore up the defense to be competitive in the DVC. Junior cornerback Antonio Shenault is rapidly developing into an elite defensive back, and he'll be invaluable against the pass.
Equally important is Mike Panasiuk up front. At 6-foot-3 and 270 pounds as a sophomore, Panasiuk is also projected as a Division I college player by Roll.
Six starters return on defense, including linebackers Niko Danielo and Curtwan Evans. With so much experience, defensive improvement should follow.
"The last two years we just haven't finished the job on defense," Roll said. "A lot of our focus has been on that side of the ball."
Given their tremendous graduation losses on offense, the Lancers will need to be extra prepared on defense.
Lake Park is coming off an era of two three-year starters at quarterback, spawning a competition for the starting role this year between Bobby Accetura and junior Mike Perry. Graduating signalcaller Zach Gehant and two stellar receivers leaves the Lancers looking to fill the void of averaging 31 points per game.
Tight end John Hower and Evans, at running back, are the lone offensive starters returning. After passing about 70 percent of the time last season, the Lancers will look for balance with a running game by committee.
Consider it part of the plan to embrace the role of DVC unknown.
"Our depth is great," Roll said. "We just have a bunch of versatile kids, and we'll look to take advantage of that."
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Fri, 8/30 Lake Park at Conant 7:30 p.m.
Fri, 9/6 Lockport at Lake Park 7:30 p.m.
Fri, 9/13 Lake Park at Naperville Central 7:30 p.m.
Fri, 9/20 Lake Park at Glenbard North 7:30 p.m.
Fri, 9/27 Wheaton North at Lake Park 7:30 p.m.
Fri, 10/4 Lake Park at Naperville North 7:30 p.m.
Fri, 10/11 Lake Park at WW South 7:30 p.m.
Fri, 10/18 Glenbard East at Lake Park 7:30 p.m.
Fri, 10/25 West Aurora at Lake Park 7:30 p.m.