For the first seven weeks last season, momentum nearly buried Naperville North's football team.
Then, like flipping a switch, it lifted the Huskies back up again.
It's that positive momentum -- two straight wins to end the season and a tremendous off-season -- Naperville North plans to carry into a turnaround 2016.
"I don't know why but we seemed to lose a lot of confidence the last two years," said Huskies coach Sean Drendel. "We're starting to get a little of our swagger back."
That swagger stems from 16 returning starters, including nine on defense. It also comes from a pair of former head coaches joining the ranks. Mike Fitzgerald, formerly at St. Francis, is now the offensive coordinator, while former Plainfield Central coach John Jackson is leading the defensive linemen.
"On both sides of the ball, that kind of experience allows us to do so much more," Drendel said.
Speaking of the defensive line, the entire group of last year's starters return in John Miranda, Malik Wells, Cam Martin and Isaac Velasco. Linebackers Jake Jegglie and Derek Amend, and defensive backs Grant Ericksen, Cam Hardy and Kiser Floyd also return as starters.
The offense should be electric in Fitzgerald's fast-paced spread. Luke Cegles is back after throwing for 525 yards last season, but that number should skyrocket with receivers like Mitch Lewis, Matt Malan, Ryan Laurenzo and St. Francis transfer Nick Calcagno.
The run game, though, remains a major part of the Huskies' attack. Eric Wright and Matt Montgomery return. Cross Robinson is also expected to contribute behind a line led by Evan Hecimovich and Nathan Gray.
Despite two straight down seasons, don't be surprised to see Naperville North returning to the playoffs among the DuPage Valley Conference front-runners.
"It's not going to be easy, but we really believe we could have a great year," Drendel said.
One to watch: Week 2
Is the Huskies' resurgence for real? They'll find out in the DVC opener against Metea Valley.
Coach: Sean Drendel (seventh year, 27-33).
2015 record: 2-7, 2-6, eighth in DuPage Valley Conference.
Top players: Luke Cegles (QB, sr.), John Miranda (DL, 5-11, 200, sr.), Grant Ericksen (DB, 6-1, 178, sr.), Cam Hardy (DB, 6-1, 195, sr.), Evan Hecimovich (OL, 6-3, 260, sr.), Mitch Lewis (WR, 6-6, 210, sr.), Jake Jegglie (LB, 6-0, 196, sr.), Eric Wright (RB, 5-10, 165, sr.), Matt Montgomery (RB, 5-10, 158, sr.), Kiser Floyd (DB, 6-3, 185, sr), Nick Calcagno (WR, 6-3, 195, jr.), Nathan Gray (OL, 5-11, 220, sr.), Derek Amend (LB, sr.), Cross Robinson (WR, 6-0, 189, sr.), Matt Malan (WR, 6-1, 185, sr.), Malik Wells (DL, 6-2, 240, sr.), Cam Martin (DL, sr.), Isaac Velasco (DL, 6-0, 265, sr.).
-- Kevin Schmit
Fri, 8/26, Naperville North at Sandburg, 7 p.m.
Fri, 9/2, Metea Valley at Naperville North, 7:30 p.m.
Fri, 9/9, Naperville North at Wheaton North, 7:30 p.m.
Fri, 9/16, Naperville North at Lake Park, 7:30 p.m.
Fri, 9/23, Glenbard North at Naperville North, 7:30 p.m.
Fri, 9/30, Neuqua Valley at Naperville North, 7:30 p.m.
Fri, 10/7, Naperville Central at Naperville North, 7:30 p.m.
Fri, 10/14, Naperville North at Waubonsie Valley, 7:30 p.m.
Fri, 10/21, WW South at Naperville North, 7:30 p.m.