PLEASANT HILL -- The College Park High football team is out to prove that last year was a fluke.
The injury-plagued season ended with the Falcons posting a losing record and not qualifying for the North Coast Section playoffs, something that doesn't happen too often for a program that's been consistently strong under veteran coach Bill Kepler.
This year, enough talent and experience returns that the Falcons have a chance to improve on last season's fourth-place finish in the Diablo Valley Athletic League.
"We're a little more athletic this year and are understanding our jobs better," Kepler said. "The kids are buying in better... We have kids back that understand the schemes better."
It also helps that the Falcons return an experienced quarterback in Dimitri Salido. Now they just have to keep him healthy.
The senior is entering his third season on varsity, having started eight games total over the past two seasons due to injuries. He'll also see time at defensive back.
"In any offense it's always a positive to have your quarterback returning," Kepler said.
College Park graduated leading rusher Matt DeSilva, but a solid group of runners are back. Timmy Jackson, Ray Jackson and Cory Caldwell, along with Salido, will all carry the ball this year.
The offensive line is also more experienced than it was a year ago when Kepler inserted an entirely new group of starters. This year, guys like Sam Armstrong, Angel Moreno and Chris Slininger bring experience to the trenches.
Other key returning seniors include linebacker Dominic Buscaglia, wide receiver/defensive back Jason Johnsonbaugh, tight end/linebacker Steven O'Brien and running back/linebacker Trevor Sprung.
The Falcons' junior class isn't large, but the guys they have are plenty familiar with Kepler. When the Falcons' longtime coach lost his junior varsity coach just before the season, Kepler stepped in and coached both teams.
It was a busy season for him, but Kepler is hoping the time he put in with those younger players will carry over into this year.
He's also hoping the injury bug stays away.
"Last year was frustrating because two or three of our main kids got hurt right off the bat," Kepler said. "It showed at the beginning of the season when we turned the ball over a lot. If we can hang on to the football, we'll do well."
8/30 at Alhambra 7 p.m.
9/6 at Dougherty Valley 7 p.m.
9/13 vs. Deer Valley# 7 p.m.
9/20 at Pinole Valley 7 p.m.
9/27 vs. Hayward# 7 p.m.
10/11 CLAY. VALLEY* 3:30 p.m.
10/18 at Mt. Diablo* 7 p.m.
10/25 vs. Concord*# 7 p.m.
11/1 at Northgate* 7 p.m.
11/8 vs. Ygnacio Valley*# 7 p.m.