Time and again Westmont football coach Otto Zeman returns to the same themes.
"I think we've got to be in better shape and we've got to be more disciplined," said the 45-year coaching veteran.
"When you don't have a lot of numbers, kids have got to be able to go hard. And we've got to be tougher than we were last year. It's a physical game where people are coming at you. We've got to fight and I think these kids will fight more."
After a long, successful career at Riverside-Brookfield, Zeman was unaccustomed to having a varsity roster in the mid-20s, as well as a 1-8 record. This year he said the Sentinels will be at about 24 varsity players -- no underclass game will be played on Friday nights. Regardless the plan is to improve on last year's record.
"I think I learned some things about the kids last year, and we had a much more productive summer camp," Zeman said.
Though he only returns seven seniors, all seven of them were starters. Westmont brings good size to both offensive and defensive lines with Josh Hicks and Marcus Mott-Larson, who at 6-feet-3 and 240 pounds could be a handful both at defensive and receiver.
In addition, junior linemen Anthony Griffiths, Sam Soltwisch and Louis Prado all started as sopho-mores.
If it's a Zeman-coached club, that means a fast-paced spread offense. Westmont graduated all-conference quarterback Tim Doll, but in comes junior Kyle Domin, a three-sport athlete with nice size for a quarterback and "one of the strongest arms I've seen in a long time," Zeman said.
Given the relatively low numbers, health is one of Zeman's primary concerns, as is contributions from younger players such as sophomore receiver Marquis Thomas and sophomore lineman Matt Listwan.
Zeman got them up to speed on his expectations during summer conditioning sessions.
"We will play hard and we'll be as mentally strong as we can be," the coach said.
Coach: Otto Zeman (second year, 1-8; 30th year overall, 163-124).
2013 record: 1-8, 1-4, fifth in Interstate Eight Small.
Top players: Quintin Brown (RB-DE, 6-1, 187, sr.); Kyle Domin (QB, 6-4, 195, jr.); Adam Ferrell (LB, 6-3, 180, sr.); Anthony Griffiths (OL-DL, 6-2, 270, jr.); Josh Hicks (DT, 6-1, 260, sr.); Dimitrios Latsonas (WR-DB-K, 5-11, 164, jr.); Jheru Montanez (LB, 5-10, 235, sr.); Marcus Mott-Larson (WR-DE, 6-3, 240, sr.); Sam Soltwisch (OL, 6-0, 250, jr.); B.J. Zakhem (DB, 6-1, 190, jr.).
Fri, 8/29 Chicago Christian at Westmont 7:30 p.m.
Fri, 9/5 Westmont at Plano 7 p.m.
Fri, 9/12 Westmont at Herscher 7:30 p.m.
Fri, 9/19 Lisle at Westmont 7:30 p.m.
Fri, 9/26 Wilmington at Westmont 7:30 p.m.
Fri, 10/3 Westmont at Seneca 7:30 p.m.
Fri, 10/10 Reed-Custer at Westmont 7:30 p.m.
Fri, 10/17 Manteno at Westmont 7:30 p.m.
Fri, 10/24 Westmont at Sandwich 7:30 p.m.