Whether it's with five wins or nine, qualifying for the football playoffs out of the West Suburban Silver is an impressive feat.
In five straight appearances -- including three of the last four years -- Downers Grove North endured the Silver slate as a five-win qualifier with tremendous upset potential in the postseason.
Venerable coach John Wander envisions this season's group having similar potential.
"That's our goal every year," Wander said. "To get five or six wins in our conference like that is a lot to ask. There's no doubt we need to get off to a good start."
The quick start is critical given the Hinsdale Central-Glenbard West-Oak Park-Lyons Twp. gauntlet that for a second straight year starts Week 3, a stretch that cost the Trojans four straight losses a year ago. A young group must grow up fast, but a strong junior class helps.
The offensive line that powers the split back veer ground game returns only one starter, Ryan Martin, but juniors like James Flavin are ready to emerge. They'll clear the path for returning running back Drew Shelly, who rushed for 546 yards as a sophomore, and also set the stage for an improved passing game.
The Trojans plan to use two quarterbacks. Nick Taviani is a traditional drop-back quarterback, and junior Jack Carr is a dangerous runner in the veer.
"People take time to plan for our split back veer," Wander said. "Anything you can do to add to that really helps."
The defense isn't big but it's fast. At least one starter returns at each level: John Lambert and Joe Ward on the line, Tyler Wicks at linebacker and Joe Keys at safety.
The Trojans needed three straight wins at the end of last season just to get into the playoffs. They hope it doesn't come down the wire like that again.
"It's never easy, but we know what we're up against," Wander said. "Whoever the opponent is, it doesn't matter. We just have to get the job done."
One to watch: Week 3
The midseason gauntlet is the same as last season, starting with Hinsdale Central.
Coach: John Wander (15th year, 81-69).
2015 record: 5-5, 2-4, tied for fourth in West Suburban Silver.
Top players: Drew Shelly (RB, 5-9, 165, jr.), Joe Keys (DB, 5-11, 164, sr.), Joe Ward (DL, 6-0, 240, sr.), Ryan Martin (OL, 6-0, 230, sr.), Tyler Wicks (LB, 5-10, 205, sr.), Cole Huskisson (WR, 6-1, 175, sr.), Zac Figura (DB, 6-0, 170, sr.), Nick Taviani (QB, 6-2, 172, sr.), Jack Carr (QB, 5-10, 170, jr.), John Lambert (LB, 6-3, 195, sr.), Chris Wilford (TE, 6-0, 195, sr.), James Flavin (OL, 6-3, 230, jr.), William Greenaberg (WR, 6-2, 168, sr.), Blake Davis (LB, 6-1, 175, jr.), Andrew Hills (LB, 5-10, 195, jr.).
-- Kevin Schmit
Downers Grove North
Fri, 8/26, Lockport at Downers Grove North, 7:30 p.m.
Fri, 9/2, Downers Grove North at Proviso East, 7:30 p.m.
Fri, 9/9, Hinsdale Central at Downers Grove North, 7:30 p.m.
Sat, 9/17, Downers Grove North at Glenbard West, 1:30 p.m.
Fri, 9/23, Oak Park-River Forest at Downers Grove North, 7:30 p.m.
Sat, 10/1, Downers Grove North at Lyons Township, 1:30 p.m.
Fri, 10/7, Downers Grove South at Downers Grove North, 7:30 p.m.
Fri, 10/14, Downers Grove North at York, 7:30 p.m.
Fri, 10/21, Proviso West at Downers Grove North, 7:30 p.m.