Lake Park's football team proved last season that it could compete in the DuPage Valley Conference.
This season the Lancers want to prove they can win.
"We've worked hard to set the right tone with the right guys," said Lancers coach Chris Roll. "Now we know the lay of the land in the DVC, and hopefully that pays off for us."
Lake Park has a great base of talent highlighted by two of the DVC's top players in defensive back Antonio Shenault -- who holds scholarship offers from Iowa State, Minnesota, Northern Illinois and a half dozen other colleges -- and 6-foot-4, 285-pound junior defensive lineman Mike Panasiuk.
Thirteen returning starters define what could be a formidable DVC team.
Eight of those starters are on offense, including quarterback Mike Perry, who would have seen the field more last season if not for injuries. Running back Kenny Jones, who returns 300 rushing yards, and receivers Joey Spitalli and Tommie Jackson, last season's leader in catches, add experience to the skills.
Equally important is the return of offensive linemen Dylan Scheirich, Randy Clark and Alec Bouchard. Throw in Shenault's expected two-way play at receiver and the Lancers appear ready to jump-start an offense that last season struggled with consistency.
"Physically (Shenault's) kind of freakish," Roll said. "He's going to be awfully tough to stop."
Opponents will have fits facing an overpowering defensive line with Panasiuk, Tyler Vittal and Christian Oshana. Shenault's the lone experienced member of the secondary, while Spitalli, a returner at linebacker, will get help at that level from hard-hitting junior Jontrell Mitchell.
Given the schedule it won't be easy for Lake Park to reverse last season's record and break into the playoffs for the first time since 2009.
Lake Park, though, doesn't plan on making things easy for the rest of the DVC.
"Every game we play is going to be a fourth-quarter game," Roll said. "Finishing was an issue for us last season, and we'll need to finish strong every week this year."
Coach: Chris Roll (fourth year, 12-15).
2013 record: 3-6, 2-5 sixth in DuPage Valley Conference.
Top players: Antonio Shenault (DB-WR, 5-11, 180, sr.); Mike Panasiuk (DL, 6-4, 285, jr.); Dylan Scheirich (OL, 6-3, 250, jr.); Jontrell Mitchell (LB, 5-11, 175, jr.); Mike Perry (QB, 6-2, 210, sr.); Kenny Jones (RB, 5-11, 185, sr.); Joey Spitalli (WR-LB, 6-2, 185, sr.); Christian Oshana (DL, 6-2, 260, sr.); Tyler Vittal (DL, 6-0, 220, sr.).
Fri, 8/29 Conant at Lake Park 7:30 p.m.
Fri, 9/5 Lake Park at Lockport 7:30 p.m.
Sat, 9/13 Lake Park at Chicago Raby noon
Fri, 9/19 Wheaton North at Lake Park 7:30 p.m.
Fri, 9/26 Naperville North at Lake Park 7:30 p.m.
Fri, 10/3 Lake Park at WW South 7:30 p.m.
Fri, 10/10 Lake Park at Glenbard North 7:30 p.m.
Fri, 10/17 Naperville Central at Lake Park 7:30 p.m.
Fri, 10/24 Lake Park at Wheaton North 7:30 p.m.