First Look Frenzy: Le-Win Panthers

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LENA, Ill. (WIFR) For a team that's been to the playoffs 19 straight seasons, it does not talk about setting goals. Le-Win begins 2018 as the defending Class 1A state champions, but it is not the same Panthers.

Le-Win knows the challenges of being a defending state champion. The Panthers have never won back-to-back state titles. But that's not the focus each year for the black and gold. It's to compete in the NUIC.

"We know that in our conference, if you're in the top two, you got a pretty good shot at doing something special," said head coach Ric Arand.

2017 was a special season, going undefeated en route to a third state title in eight years. But after only one week of practice, It's clear this is a different team.

"It was fun to get there and it was fun to win, but we got to flip the page to this year," said senior Cade Benson. "Our leaders got to step up and the includes me. We got to get everyone's minds off of that and on to week one."

Benson enters the season as the starting quarterback. He's one of many new faces getting their turn to shine.

"Cade's a smart kid," said Arand. "He's a good athlete, he's a great student so I wouldn't expect anything out of him that we didn't expect out of Ty last year or Tanner the year before."

One holdover from last year's squad is junior Isaiah Bruce. The Iowa recruit knows it's going to take every Panther to get back to the top of the mountain.

"We obviously have to fill some big shoes from Rahveon, Gage, Ty, but they can be filled. But we just have to keep working harder every day and keep that grind up."