STANFORD, Ill. (WMBD/WYZZ) — Olympia was one of the state’s Cinderella’s last football season.

The Spartans would rather be a powerhouse this year.

Olympia brings back 16 starters on offense and defense from a team that won seven games an advanced to the state football quarterfinals last fall.

“You see a lot more confidence,” said Olympia head coach Eric Lyons. “We’ve gone from hoping we can win to believing we can. That is a big step for our program here.”

Lyons hopes his program is taking the next step towards being a consistent winner. When he became head coach six yeas ago, he had 27 players in the program.

This year’s there are 61.

“I feel like there is definitely a carry over from last year,” said senior center Bryson Wilson. “I feel like, honestly, we are going to do better than we did last year. I have a lot of confidence in this year’s team because we are bringing back some key players from last year.”

Wilson will be snapping the ball to returning starting quarterback Zach Keedy, the team’s leading rusher in 2022. The stout Oly defense will be led by veteran linebacker Chase Litwiller and safety Nick Olson.

“We have a lot of returning starters, a lot of senior leadership,” said senior running back Blake Youngren. “I feel like our team has a fire. We are going to win this year.”

Olympia hosts Riverton in Friday’s season opener.