BRENTWOOD -- New Liberty High football coach Jeff Walters will know just about everyone on the field at the next Bell Game.
Walters, a 27-year-old Loomis native, has been an assistant coach at Freedom the past four seasons, coaching quarterbacks and special teams.
He was hired last week by Liberty, the Falcons' Bay Valley Athletic League rival.
Let the buzz about the 2013 Freedom-Liberty Bell Game begin.
"Not that the kids at Freedom needed any more motivation, but I know that it will definitely be a very hyped environment," said Walters, a social science teacher at Freedom. "I think it's going to be fun, and maybe the community will get a little more fired up. I want it to be more of a rivalry than it's been the last couple of years."
A few close games could do the trick.
Freedom won the 2012 Bell Game 41-0 after prevailing 34-10, 49-10, 35-6, 41-15, 60-32, and 42-28. Liberty last rang the Bell in 2005, when it beat Freedom 25-20 for the second straight year.
Of course, Walters' main objective, in his first varsity head-coaching job, will be to build a strong Liberty program.
"I'm so excited," he said. "It's the realization of a lifelong dream. ... I couldn't start fast enough, as far as I was concerned."
He sees promise at Liberty, which finished 2-8 overall and 0-5 in the BVAL under former coach Nate Smith. The Lions junior varsity team was 8-1-1 last season.
"What I see is a great group of
"The hard stuff from which to grow, I already see that it's there," he continued. "It kind of needs to be pushed in the right direction, for lack of a better term."
He plans to run a multiple-set offense and an attack-minded 4-3 defense at Liberty.
Liberty principal Pat Walsh said Tuesday he is impressed with Walters' coaching and teaching abilities, and seemed genuinely excited about the program's future. The Lions' 2012 season got off on the wrong foot when five players were removed from the team for a hazing incident at a summer camp.
If ever a program seemed to need a fresh outlook, it was Liberty.
Enter Walters, a young man with an infectious enthusiasm and a community-oriented approach. Walters credits Freedom coach Jeff Hartwig, Del Oro-Loomis coach Casey Taylor and Whitney coach Mike Gimenez with shaping his coaching philosophy.
He started coaching as a 14-year-old freshman at Del Oro High-Loomis, guiding a Junior PeeWee team.
High school football in Loomis has a Texas-style grip on the community.
"It's a very small town, and the town shuts down every Friday night for the football game," Walters recalled. "If you're not there by 5:30 p.m. for the J.V. game, then you'll be standing during the varsity games. There was usually about 6,000 to 7,000 people for the games. The town lives, eats and sleeps football. I like to joke with people that it's kind of like the town was picked up out of west Texas and sort of dropped in Northern California. It's incredible."
He hopes to build a foundation for success at Liberty, something the community can become excited about.
"I think that if you take care of all the important stuff on and off the field, the wins come as part of that," he said. "A lot of times in this profession we become so fixated on getting that next win that we let the important stuff fly by the wayside. I'm one of those that if you look at it from a total perspective, the wins are almost a secondary thing: You build the other stuff."