A rainy day provided Vito Andriola a ray of sunshine.
Under the bright lights of Grant's old varsity gym, the school's new head football coach saw bright spots. While the Bulldogs scrimmaged using half the gym, other players practiced in the lobby of the auditorium. It was the team's first time practicing indoors.
"I was really happy," Andriola said after the weekday practice. "You can see a lot indoors."
On the job only three months, after being named Kurt Rous' successor late in the spring, Andriola is still learning the names of some of his players and still figuring out his team. So a rainy day allowed Andriola to see how his players handled a little "adversity," as he called it.
"They show flashes of spark, like tonight," Andriola said. "That was some good stuff out there. It's got to be all the time."
Andriola took one-time weakling Dundee-Crown to the state playoffs last season in his third year at the Carpentersville school. Before a run at Glenbrook South as head coach Mike Noll's defensive coordinator, he coached Grayslake to a school-record 8 wins and second-round playoff berth in 2003.
Now, he has the task of getting Grant back into the postseason after an injury-plagued, 3-6 campaign last year. It was the first time the Bulldogs had won fewer than four games in a season since 1997.
"I'd say the intensity (is different) -- practice and the reps we're taking," senior running back Jeremy Bredwood said. "That's the thing that's the most different (from last season)."
"It's pretty awesome," junior center Isaac Ryczek (6-2, 265) said. "I'd agree with Jeremy that it's intense, but it's for the good."
Andriola, who brings a enthusiasm to the sideline much like Rous did, will call the plays on both sides of the ball. His staff is entirely new and young. His team features a mix of both young players and veterans. In Bredwood and senior quarterback Spencer Lhotka, the Bulldogs boast two players who were named all-conference last season.
"He's a tough kid," Andriola said of Lhotka. "He's learning the offense and leading as best as he can."
Lhotka will operate a Wing-T offense. He can hand off the ball and throw to Bredwood, senior Tim Hollins and junior Ben Schramm. Bredwood (5-10, 170) caught a team-best 21 passes last season, rushed for 305 yards and scored 5 touchdowns.
"We're athletic (in the offensive backfield)," Andriola said.
Athletic junior wide receiver Kemar Miller played on varsity last season. The veterans on the offensive line include seniors Collin Stefanowski and David Currie.
Defensively, senior Deonte Dillon (6-4, 210) is a physical presence at end, while senior linebackers Jake Lostroscio, Hollins and Ken Sahs are two other veterans. Bredwood, Lostroscio, Hollins and Stefanowski all played varsity ball as sophomores.
"When we don't work as hard as we can, we're not consistent," Andriola said. "When we play hard, we're pretty good."
The new coach understands it's a year of transition. The Bulldogs are confident they can win, however. Under Rous, they went to the playoffs six times in eight years.
"I really believe we can be good," Andriola said. "But I don't play the game. They do."
"Everyone is thinking that we're not going to do too well, but I think we're going to be a very good team," Bredwood said. "Well-coached and well-conditioned."
His teammate agrees with him again.
"I think we're going to be good," Ryczek said. "Everyone's working hard and giving it their best."