DOWNERS GROVE – Last season, Rashaun Cowan and his Downers Grove South teammates suffered through an up-and-down football season that uncharacteristically ended without a playoff berth. As the Mustangs move forward with a new coach and several new faces on defense, Cowan will be looked upon as a leader both on and off the field.
Rossi: What were your thoughts on the first week of practice?
Cowan: The first week of practice was pretty good. The offense and defense were going at it. But it all came from the offseason. We had great lifting sessions. We're really getting at it and I'm pretty sure it's going to make us good during the season. I'm excited for the season.
Rossi: How much is last year's showing something that you guys think about?
Cowan: That's something we think about and talk about almost every day. We don't want that season again. We pretty much put it behind us and we're going to take it to the house this season.
Rossi: In what areas do you think you've personally gotten better this season?
Cowan: I think I've gotten better at stopping the run, reading offenses, getting to my drops, looking for things that are out of the ordinary, and making the calls.
Rossi: How do you guys as a defense respond when your offense scores on you in practice?
Cowan: We're both going really hard and we're usually all hyped up. Sometimes defense beats them, sometimes offense beats us. It happens.
Rossi: As a senior, how are you trying to be a team leader?
Cowan: I definitely want to be a leader because I can teach them. Since we went 4-5 my junior season, I can teach the younger guys what we did wrong so that doesn't happen again. It's been great from the juniors. We've had great leadership from them, too.
Rossi: What piece of advice would you give to the younger players to avoid another losing season?
Cowan: Just listen to the coaches. Listen to the coaches, respect your teammates, love each other. We're a brotherhood out here.
Rossi: As players, have you talked about what you hope to achieve this season?
Cowan: We've talked about going to the state championship. That's what we want. That's the No. 1 goal, pretty much. Going 9-0, hopefully, going downstate, and getting a championship win like 2001.
WEEK 1 MATCHUP
Who: Benet at Downers Grove South
When: 7:30 p.m. Friday
Where: 1436 Norfolk St., Downers Grove
2012 records: Benet 11-2; Downers Grove South 4-5
Outlook: The two teams are coming off vastly different seasons. Making the playoffs for just the second time since 2007, the Redwings advanced to the state semifinal game. Junior QB Jack Beneventi, already being courted by Division I schools, returns to guide a prolific offense. Downers Grove South, which missed the playoffs for the first time since 1996 last fall, has a new head coach (Mark Molinari), new quarterback (Jordan Skach) and a new crop of running backs (Alec Arvanitakis and Le'devin Smith among them).
COACH'S QUOTE "The strength of this team is we have 60 guys on the same page willing to sacrifice for each other. I honestly mean that. I don't know yet how good we're going to be offensively or defensively, but I know we have 60 guys that believe in each other and have each other's back. As a head coach, I think that's what I want more than anything." Mark Molinari
BY THE NUMBERS
15: Consecutive playoff appearances for the Mustangs until they missed the postseason last year290: Weight, in pounds, for sophomore offensive lineman Erik Swenson48: Combined 2012 wins for the nine teams Downers Grove South will face this season
Aug. 30 Benet, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 6 at Proviso West, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 13 at Addison Trail, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 20 Morton, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 27 at Leyden, 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 4 Downers Grove North, 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 11 at Willowbrook, 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 18 Proviso East, 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 25 Hinsdale South, 7:30 p.m.