A year ago Conant was about as far away as a team could possibly be from the high school football playoffs.
So, where are the Cougars now besides headed back to the postseason for the first time since 2006 with a 6-2 record after Friday's 21-14 Mid-Suburban West victory over Schaumburg?
"We're more talented but we've really got more heart than we've had the past couple of years," said Conant coach Bill Modelski of the turnaround from last year's 2-7 team that lost its last seven games. "Even the games we've lost, we're this close to being undefeated."
The Cougars' first loss in Week 5 was 24-20 to Fremd. Two weeks ago was a 29-28 heartbreaker at Barrington on a late drive and field goal on the game's final play.
"We're two plays from being undefeated," said Conant senior Matt Cullen, who teamed with junior Tim Manczko as a formidable passing-running quarterback combination last week. "But our record doesn't matter as long as we get the job done in the end."
One of the biggest changes for the Cougars from a year ago has been on the defensive end.
They have cut their points allowed per game nearly in half from 26 to 13.7.
"I would just say we've improved as a team and we're stronger as a whole," said Conant senior middle linebacker John Maevski. "This year the whole team works hard and we've come together significantly.
"We're building every week and it looks like we're coming together as a whole. I think we definitely have a chance to make a run in the playoffs."
Conant will get an excellent final regular-season test Friday when it visits Palatine (7-1), which has won seven straight and clinched a share of the MSL West title. Then it will focus on getting the program's first playoff win since 2003 when it beat Bartlett in the Class 8A first round.
But this senior class has been thinking even bigger since they arrived at Conant.
"Coach Jake (freshman coach Eric Jacobsen) told us, 'Three years from now I'm going to be sitting with you guys at the table downstate," Cullen said. "That's what we're aiming for."
• Conant leads the series with Schaumburg 25-16 as the series leader was incorrectly listed in Friday's preview. The Cougars ended a four-game losing streak to the Saxons on Friday.