It's Year 3 of George Kaider's tenure at Mundelein, and he believes the third time will be the charm.
"I'm really excited about our team. I think we have the right pieces in place to push forward with a playoff team," Kaider said. "We have the right kids and the right staff. It took two years to build to this point and now we have the pieces to win. We have only 36 kids on varsity, but they're the right 36 kids.
"They've made the commitment and they believe we can win."
The Mustangs have won just one game in the last two years, but have reason for genuine optimism this season.
Of 22 spots in the starting lineup, 13 are filled by the same players as last year.
Offensive linemen Joe Nagel and Matt Spitzer give the Mustangs some rare size up front. Nagel is 6-foot-3, 275 pounds while Spitzer is 6-foot-2, 230 pounds.
"I think Joe is a Division I prospect," Kaider said. "He's super aggressive and physical. Matt is very athletic for a big kid and has the biggest physical hit on the team. We're going to be strong up front."
Nagel and Spitzer will be protecting Colten Fisher, who is new at quarterback but started at safety last season.
Fisher replaces junior Gavin Graves, who transferred to Fenwick after starting for the Mustangs the past two seasons as a freshman and sophomore.
"Last year, Colten started at quarterback in Game 9 (against Lakes) and passed for 232 yards and rushed for 100 yards," Kaider said. "There is no doubt in my mind that he has the toughness and ability to both run and throw. Everything he does is so natural."
Fisher will work closely with two veterans, returning wide receiver Jake Buscher and returning tailback Rob Hamilton.
"In 7-on-7s this summer, Jake was one of the most dominant receivers I saw. He was catching everything," Kaider said. "And Rob is the most physical skill player we have, and he's a 4.6 40 kid. He has a big burst to him and he has a good cutback."
According to Kaider, fellow running back Isaac Banuelos has also run a 4.6 40. He will also get plenty of carries. The Mustangs will use a rotation at fullback with Alex Edmonds and Jake Gokan, both of whom will also start on defense.
Speaking of the defense, Mundelein gets its payoff from going super young last season.
"We started seven sophomores on defense last year," Kaider said. "Now, we have eight returning starters on defense. We'll be very strong and athletic."
Spitzer and Nagel, the Mustangs' notable offensive linemen, will also start on the defensive line while Antoine Hicks leads an experienced group of linebackers.
"Our boys want to win, they want to make the playoffs," Kaider said. "They don't want to be known as the 'W' on everyone's schedule. We are different from the teams of the past at Mundelein. If we can stay healthy, we feel we can really do something special."