It should be a fastbreak for the Mustangs of Rolling Meadows this year.
With 13 starters returning from last year's MSL East champions, there are plenty of reasons for optimism.
"There should be a lot of expectation here," Rolling Meadows coach Matt Mishler said. "We have a lot of starters back on offense. We have some guys back on defense that were huge impact players last year."
Meadows has qualified for the playoffs the last five seasons and 12 of the last 13 years. The Mustangs are hoping this season they can get past that pesky first-round game, which they have lost four of the last five years.
"I thought we made the improvements we needed this summer," Mishler said. "We can't wait to really get started."
Rolling Meadows returns eight starters on offense, including MSL East co-offensive player of the year Asher O'Hara. The senior, who transferred to Meadows before last year from Prospect after his family moved, threw for 1,695 yards and 26 touchdowns while throwing just 2 interceptions.
"He did a great job for us last year," Mishler said. "And we expect even more from him this season."
The Mustangs are also loaded at the skill positions as Jose Camacho, Marco Taibi and Logan Reese return at the wide receiver spot. They will be joined by Darius Williams, Luke Nordman and Jack Rebman.
If that is not enough weapons for O'Hara to find, he still has slot receivers Blake Holfied and Devonte Amos, who has been a three year varsity play, to throw to.
If teams want to defend against the run, O'Hara, who ran for 525 yards last year, also has a strong option in Kevin Lacosse and Nick Delporte. The duo combined to rush for 1,246 yards last year.
Meadows has a pair of offensive linemen returning in junior Andrew Neville (6-foot-3, 245) and Tommy Larson (5-10, 273). Mike Wulfram (5-10, 215), who is a senior, along with Matt Pedraza (6-1, 250) and Patrick Crilly (5-11, 230), who are both juniors, sophomore Dawson Krull (6-1, 240) and freshman Nate Pedraza (6-1, 210) are in the mix.
The Mustangs have five starters back on defense, led by linebacker Kevin Haltman. Justin Thompson, who also saw some action last season, will also be back at linebacker. They will look to improve after allowing 26 points per game, including 57 in the state playoffs against Reavis.
"This is a very hard-working group," Mishler sid. "They like to get after the ball."
Jesus Delatorre, Luis Robledo and Marcus Perez will see most of the action up front. The secondary will be anchored be Delporte, who will be a three-year starter at strong safety, and Amos, who will return at corner. Willis Goodwin, Zach Gunnger, Justin Masters and Mark Nolan should see some action at corner while Matt Zieba and Greg Bouraoui will be at free safety.
"We are still looking to improve," Mishler said. "If the guys improve like we think they can, we have a chance to be pretty good this year."