"It was like 'Okay, we went 0-10.' Sophomore year, there were a lot of us that didn't want to play," running back Robert Askren said.
Thompson's first team won four games, and took a big leap last year winning the school's first district championship since 1998 before being bounced in the Class 2 Quarterfinals.
"You don't see a whole lot of people hoping that we win a game here or there or being .500," Thompson said of the expectations. "They're pretty high. Not only for the kids, but the community as well."
The Mules boast 15 seniors on this year's squad, but said goodbye to 15 from last season including playmakers Brandon Maddick, Brandon Stimelsky and the speedy Tyson May.
"There's going to be a lot of new faces on the offensive side of the ball," Thompson said. "The beautiful thing for us is that these kids have played a lot of football as they've come up through the system the last couple years. That's where we want to be."
Those increased roles go to senior Caleb Myers in the backfield and Derek Thompson under center. One familiar name is Askren at running back. He's ready to take even more of a scoring load after his late-season surge yielded 1,300 yards in 2012.
"It doesn't matter if they're gone," Askren said of the 15 seniors last year. "You do your work, keep the guys on their toes. That's what I'm going to do. I'm going to keep them going, get back to where we started last year."
"He's probably 20-25 pounds heavier than he was a year ago," Thompson said of Askren. "There's no reason why he shouldn't have a great year this year."
A great year and a KCI title run could be on the horizon in Lathrop for a program whose confidence has never been higher.
"We're pretty pumped, but I don't think we should get too cocky," Myers said. "Coach said it's hard to stay on top and everyone expects a lot out of us, so we're definitely excited to take on the year."
"I think our mindset is better going into the season than it was a year ago," Thompson said. "It should lead to better things for us, we should maximize our potential. Now the question is how good can we possibly get?"
Lathrop opens the season at home August 30th against King City.