As last season's two-game losing streak spiraled to six, Lake Park's football team found its glimmer of hope: 2017.
Now that it's here, the Lancers won't waste a minute. They'll push for their first playoff berth in the DuPage Valley Conference...in their last year competing in the league.
"It was a hard season for everyone, but it was over the second it ended," coach Chris Roll said. "We haven't forgotten it. It drives them."
For the first time since 2012 the Lancers won't have a Panasiuk starting on their defensive line. Both players are now competing at Michigan State.
There are no stars on this year's defense, but it's more balanced at every level. Christian Cestone is the anchor on the line, while Gino Romano and Tommy Zablocki are a formidable tandem at linebacker.
More talent awaits in the secondary with returners Solomon Sangobowale and Rashad Khwaja.
A strong Lake Park defense won't surprise opponents, but they'd better be ready for the offense that returns quarterback Jackson Behles, who last season threw for 1,600 yards, and a whole lot more.
Seven returning players missed significant time with injuries, including receivers Diamante Smith and Dan Spejcher, who averaged 16 yards a catch and scored 5 touchdowns. The receiving corps received a huge boost with the transfer from Glenbard East of Keonta Nixon, who holds an offer from Southern Illinois.
Jay Palmer and Patrick Panasiuk are two of four returning offensive linemen. The running back combination of Jake Carvalho and Jordon Colon hope to vastly improve upon last year's ground game.
"No one's circling us on their schedule, but we'll be fighting until the end," Roll said.
One to watch: A stretch of six straight DuPage Valley Conference games begins with a Week 4 trip to Naperville North.
Coach: Chris Roll (seventh year, 23-31).
2016 record: 2-7, 1-7, ninth in the DuPage Valley Conference.
Top players: Jackson Behles (QB, 6-3, 200, sr.), Diamante Smith (WR, 6-3, 190, sr.), Christian Cestone (DL, 6-1, 230, sr.), Gino Romano (LB, 6-2, 215, sr.), Dan Spejcher (WR, 6-3, 195, sr.), Jake Carvalho (RB, 5-8, 180, sr.), Tommy Zablocki (LB, 5-9, 180, sr.), Keonta Nixon (WR, 6-4, 210, sr.), Jay Palmer (OL, 6-2, 240, sr.), Patrick Panasiuk (OL, 6-3, 290, jr.), Solomon Sangobowale (DB, 5-11, 180, sr.), Rashad Khwaja (DB, 5-10, 160, sr.).
-- Kevin Schmit
Fri, 8/25, Lake Park at Waubonsie Valley, 7:30 p.m.
Fri, 9/1, Wheaton Warrenville South at Lake Park, 7:30 p.m.
Fri, 9/8, Lake Park at DeKalb, 7:30 p.m.
Fri, 9/15, Lake Park at Naperville North, 7:30 p.m.
Fri, 9/22, Wheaton North at Lake Park, 7:30 p.m.
Fri, 9/29, Lake Park at Metea Valley, 7:30 p.m.
Fri, 10/6, Glenbard North at Lake Park, 7:30 p.m.
Fri, 10/13, Lake Park at Neuqua Valley, 7:30 p.m.
Fri, 10/20, Napervile Central at Lake Park, 7:30 p.m.