Countdown to Kickoff: Lena-Winslow looks to rebuild aiming for fourth straight title

The Panthers are coming off another dominant season where the team averaged 50 points per game
Published: Aug. 16, 2023 at 11:11 PM CDT
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LENA, Ill. (WIFR) - Since moving to the modern playoff format in 1974 which crowned five state champions in football, six high schools can lay claim to winning at least four-straight state titles.

Lena-Winslow can become the seventh program to do that after capturing titles in 2019, 2021, and 2022 (no postseason in 2020-21). Although the Panthers will have to do it without most of their starters from last year.

“We lost ten starters on defense and eight on offense,” Lena-Winslow head coach Ric Arand said. “So even the makeup is totally different but even just stepping off the field the makeup of the locker room, the personalities year in and year out is just so different.”

But with the deep playoff runs come additional practices for players, and Lena-Winslow has taken advantage of those opportunities.

“A long time ago, a great coach told me that if you can get your kids into the playoffs and get them a couple of weeks into the playoffs, the experience they get from the extra couple weeks of practice, the crazy weather conditions in late fall into November, just continue to try and get better those extra couple weeks year in and year out really pay off.”

And for players like QB Jake Schumacher who steps into a starting role this year, that experience pays off.

“We had a great group of guys last year passed down to us, the roles and gave us all the tools to build a great team this year and we’re really excited,” Schumacher said.

Among the few returning starters include RB Gage Dunker, who was a part of a dominant backfield last year alongside Gunar Lobdell and Jake Zeal. Dunker believes this year’s running back room could be even better than last year’s.

“Yeah that group was pretty fun last year,” Dunker said. “But yeah this year I feel like we have a lot more speed, honestly a lot more strength but don’t tell those guys but yeah.”