It's not easy finding a bright spot in a 2-7 football season.
Downers Grove South won't try, although the Mustangs know key injuries played a factor in the demise of 2016. With better health this year, the Mustangs plan to be much more successful.
It starts with quarterback Matt Greenwald, who came into last season with tremendous potential but missed the final five games due to injury. If he stays healthy, the Mustangs will take a huge step toward their first playoff appearance since 2014.
"He threw for over 300 yards against Hinsdale South, so it's not like we don't know what he's capable of doing," coach Mark Molinari said. "We're definitely still quarterback-led. The difference between this year and last year is we won't have to rely on him as much."
The Mustangs will lean on Greenwald's dual-threat ability, but there's offensive depth with running backs Nathan Strelak and Kenton Johnson. They have game-breaking receivers in Vinny Provenzano and Jaelynn Blecke, not to mention receiver Kyle Heavey coming back from injury.
Offensive success hinges on developing an inexperienced line, but the pieces are in place for improvement there as well.
There's defensive confidence with six of the team's front seven returning including West Suburban Conference Gold Division defensive lineman of the year Sergio Villalobos. Kendall Burrow is another quality lineman.
Two-way play will be a factor, especially with Strelak, Blecke, Heavey and some of the linemen.
More than anything, though, last year the Mustangs learned the hard way that staying healthy is a must.
"We have some questions, but we think (Greenwald) can help answer a lot of those questions," Molinari said.
One to watch: The opener gets no easier switching from Homewood-Flossmoor to Bolingbrook.
Coach: Mark Molinari (fifth year, 16-20).
2016 record: 3-6, 3-3, tied for fourth in the WSC Gold.
Top players: Matt Greenwald (QB, 6-2, 208, sr.), Sergio Villalobos (DL, 5-11, 210, sr.), Kendall Burrow (DL, 6-3, 248, jr.), Nathan Strelak (RB-LB, 5-9, 195, sr.), Kenton Johnson (RB, 5-9, 198, jr.), Vinny Provenzano (WR, 5-9, 165, jr.), Jaelynn Blecke (WR-DB, 6-1, 190, jr.), Kyle Heavey (DB-WR, 6-1, 170, jr.), Ali Issa (DL, 6-2, 193, jr.), Milan Vujovic (DL, 6-4, 270, sr.), Anthony Martinez (LB, 5-10, 213, sr.), LaQuette Reed (DL, 6-1, 200, sr.).
-- Kevin Schmit
Fri, 8/25, Bolingbrook at Downers Grove South, 7:30 p.m.
Fri, 9/1, Downers Grove South at Oak Park-River Forest, 7:30 p.m.
Fri, 9/8, Proviso East at Downers Grove South, 7:30 p.m.
Fri, 9/15, Hinsdale South at Downers Grove South, 7:30 p.m.
Fri, 9/22, Downers Grove South at Addison Trail, 7:30 p.m.
Fri, 9/29, Morton at Downers Grove South, 7:30 p.m.
Fri, 10/6, Downers Grove South at Leyden, 7:30 p.m.
Fri, 10/13, Downers Grove North at Downers Grove South, 7:30 p.m.
Fri, 10/20, Downers Grove South at Willowbrook, 7:30 p.m.