LANSING | T.F. South senior two-way lineman Raphael Canty is a three-year starter and knows what is expected of him and his classmates.
"Senior leadership is the key and we learned that from last year's team," Canty said. "That means doing your job, being vocal when you have to, but not getting down on your teammates."
The Rebels were 7-3 last year and lost 23-21 to Thornton in the opening round of the Class 7A playoffs. Canty and his teammates opened practice Wednesday with optimism.
The Rebels have made the postseason 16 of the last 19 years. Last year, T.F. South pulled off a 21-20 road upset of Lemont and earned a share of the South Suburban Blue title.
The Rebels lost their season-opener to eventual Class 6A state champion Crete-Monee then won seven in a row before losing their last regular-season game to Oak Forest.
T.F. South hosts Crete-Monee Aug. 30 in the season opener for both schools.
Canty said while the bar is raised high in Lansing, that is not pressure.
"I would rather the expectations be high than to just have a winning season," Canty said. "We had a good year last year, but that was last year.
"This year, there is nothing promised, but everything to earn."
Senior running back Kendall McCaskill said it is up to his senior group to make sure things get done.
"Everyone has to have the same goal and be on the same page," McCaskill said. "We just have to play together and come out focused."
The Rebels have already lost starting lineman Adam Kessler for the season with a knee injury.
With the new Illinois High School Association's practice rules prohibiting helmets and shoulder pads in the afternoon session, the Rebels and other teams around the state had a walk-through.
Rebels coach Tom Padjen said Wednesday's two sessions went fine as 70 varsity candidates turned out with 40 sophomores and 60 freshmen.
"We had good energy out there and the kids were pretty motivated," said Padjen, who is beginning his 37th season at his prep alma mater. "We couldn't do much, but it was good to see the kids out there working."
McCaskill said he and his teammates made the best of their limited time.
"You have to listen to what the coaches say and imagine what you will do on a certain play," McCaskill said. "Walking through with no helmets is not the same, but you can still see how a play will develop and what you need to do on it."