As a Class 6A-sized football team playing against nine bigger schools, Hinsdale South knows the importance of just reaching the playoffs and letting the difficult schedule be its guide through the bracket.
That's what made last season so disappointing.
The Hornets missed out on the postseason with a 4-5 record, two years after reaching the 6A quarterfinals and a year after coming within 3 points of the state title game.
The recent past shows the sky is the limit for a Hornets playoff team. First, though, they have to get there.
"We were 4-5 but we were in a position to win just about every game," coach Mike Barry said. "To not get in, it was a great learning experience for our guys. They don't want that again."
Remember the record-breaking offense two seasons ago? This group looks similar.
It starts with quarterback Justin Kolzow, who last year threw for 431 yards while splitting time. The Hornets will lean on game-breaking receiver Destin Talbert, who holds numerous scholarship offers. They also return receivers Colton Kotecki and Steve Farina.
Running back Marquese Garrett may be a sophomore, but he'll be counted on to carry the ground game after being up on varsity last year. A new offensive line needs time to develop consistency.
You'll see defensive consistency from returning ends Oshokhai Ebikhumi and Chris Mosley. The defense also brings back linebackers Shawn Cephus and Charles Franklin in addition to defensive backs Julian Kinsey and Bobby O'Donnell.
If the defense thrives, Hinsdale South fans might end up having flashbacks.
"If it comes together, this could be a very similar group to two years ago," Barry said.
One to watch: Season finale against Hinsdale Central? Imagine if the Hornets are fighting for a playoff spot.
Coach: Mike Barry (seventh year, 37-25; 10th year overall, 46-43).
2016 record: 4-5, 4-2, tied for second in the WSC Gold.
Top players: Destin Talbert (WR, 5-11, 170, sr.), Justin Kolzow (QB, 6-3, 195, sr.), Oshokhai Ebikhumi (DL, 6-4, 220, sr.), Chris Mosley (DL, 6-4, 200, sr.), Shawn Cephus (LB, 5-10, 190, sr.), Marquese Garrett (RB, 6-1, 190, so.), Colton Kotecki (WR, 5-11, 175, sr.), Steve Farina (WR, 5-11, 180, jr.), Charles Franklin (LB, 5-6, 163, sr.), Julian Kinsey (DB, 5-11, 175, sr.), Bobby O'Donnell (DB, 6-0, 175, sr.).
-- Kevin Schmit
Fri, 8/25, Prospect at Hinsdale South, 7:30 p.m.
Fri, 9/1, Hinsdale South at Lyons Township, 7:30 p.m.
Fri, 9/8, Morton at Hinsdale South, 7:30 p.m.
Fri, 9/15, Hinsdale South at Downers Grove South, 7:30 p.m.
Fri, 9/22, Willowbrook at Hinsdale South, 7:30 p.m.
Fri, 9/29, Hinsdale South at Proviso East, 7:30 p.m.
Fri, 10/6, Addison Trail at Hinsdale South, 7:30 p.m.
Fri, 10/13, Hinsdale South at Leyden, 7:30 p.m.
Fri, 10/20, Hinsdale Central at Hinsdale South, 7:30 p.m.