"You don't just show up on Friday night to win games. You've got to put your time in in the gym and the weight room, and you've got to practice hard Monday through Thursday," Gladwell said. "We've really been focusing on all the little things that it takes to win on Friday night. And I think that's something that maybe they haven't been doing in the past. ... Kids have bought in and been working really hard. So we've just been working on those little things to help make us a better team. We've got great kids; I think we've got good athletes; I think we've got kids that want to win. Everybody wants to win, but are you going to do the things that it takes to win?"
Coach Gladwell feels like he's got the team that can.
At quarterback, senior Braxton Stofferahn takes over as the starter after seeing some mop-up duty last year.
"He's a smart kid and he's a very hard worker," Gladwell said. "Anything that he does very well is because he just works extremely hard. He's a real good leader and a great kid."
At H-back, the Lakers have four experienced seniors — Colby Bedford, Andrew Croyle, Brock Kap and Jaydn Peck — who all started some last season. What's more, they're versatile and can play multiple positions.
"We have four kids that can run the ball really well," Gladwell said, "so we'll rotate 'em and play 'em at different positions.
"All four of those kids are good athletes and good runners. They'll also play wide receiver for us as well as running back. We're just going to try and put them in a lot of different spots. They could all be in the game at the same time, easily, and we'll just try to be creative with how we get each one of them the ball.
"They could all play H-back. They could all play a slot receiver, a split receiver, fullback and a couple of them could play tight end for us, so we'll just move 'em all over — move 'em around so teams can't focus on just stopping them at one position," he said. "They're all returners from last year so they have good experience, and they're all seniors and all good leaders who all work extremely hard."
On the offensive line, senior Wilson Atagi is a returning starter and a strong leader, and he'll be backed up by his younger brother, sophomore Ethan Atagi. Seniors Dustin Wood and Kiefer Halterman will start at guard, with seniors Seth Schreyer and Sage Zisumbo at the tackle spots.
On defense, seniors Mario German and Dominic Barela are the team's top D-tackles, with senior Zack Scott, a returning starter, and senior Bryson Bell at defensive end, and junior Jose Duran providing depth.
"Depth is something that we're working on," Gladwell said. "As we go along, I think we're going to develop more depth. Everything is so new — our offense is new, our defense is new, our special teams are new — and everybody's still trying to learn everything.
"The depth is gonna come because we're still trying to figure out who all the starters are going to be and they're learning a new scheme. In the big picture, I think we'll be OK with depth."
Gladwell's focus right now is offering the kids in the program something the Lakers had for all those years under coach Budge — consistency.
"If it's at practice, in the classroom, in the hallways, we just always want to give the kids that consistency that will build confidence," Gladwell said. "That's what coach Budge was all about.
"You always knew what you were going to get from coach Budge — you always knew his behavior, his demeanor, what his practice schedule was going to be like, what he expected from you in the classroom, what he expected you to do on the weekends with your friends. He was very consistent with all that stuff, and that's something I'm trying to do now as a coach here."
And as they work toward that goal, the Lakers' new head coach figures they can't afford to give anybody a free pass.