DUBLIN -- Dublin High junior quarterback Josh Nobida sounds like he's ready to stand out in the Friday night lights.
After showing promise as a sophomore, Nobida prepared for the new season by attending camps at Cal, Stanford, Cal Poly and San Jose State, sharpening his mental game and his footwork.
"Last year I learned a lot," Nobida said. "Just the speed of the game, obviously. It's very different than freshman football. Just how big it is, varsity football. It's just something else."
The Gaels, who were 6-6 overall last season and 3-3 in the Diablo Foothill Athletic League, expect to be pretty good in the skill positions and on the offensive line.
In a season-opening 33-20 loss to Alameda on Aug. 30, Jabari Jefferson caught a 24-yard touchdown pass from Nobida with 10:08 left in the second quarter. Nobida also ran 19 yards for a score and threw a 7-yard strike to Tai Ahmad on the final play of the game.
Dublin coach John Wade has been impressed with the guy standing behind center.
"Josh is doing a really good job," Wade said. "We had good sessions with him all offseason in the spring and the summer. He's done a lot to get ready as far as throwing the ball. The game is slowing down a little bit.
"Instead of being a sophomore running around with older guys, now he's gonna be a junior with a year under his belt, so he's really progressed quite a bit."
Dublin advanced to the second round of the North Coast Section Division II playoffs last year. In a 44-21 win over Livermore in the first round, Nobida had 220 yards passing and accounted for three touchdowns.
The fact that the Gaels have switched back to their more traditional spread offense after featuring senior running back Ondre Rudolph last season could help Nobida settle into a nice tempo.
Nobida was among five sophomores added to the varsity in 2012 who played substantial roles. The other key returning juniors are wideout Jabari Jefferson, RB/LB Daryl Millinder, RB/LB Dillon Forshey and DL Jackson Case.
The powerful Millinder could be poised for a breakout season. Elusive senior EJ Crosse gives the running game a nice change-up.
"He's looking very good.," Nobida said of Millinder. "A lot of trust in him, and EJ Cross as well. They're two different styles of running backs, EJ's fast and shoots around, and Daryl will just run people over."
The offensive and defensive lines will have an infusion of junior newcomers in Grant Matta, Matt Lee, Ryan Elazegui and Alex Zavala. Other key junior newcomers are LB/WR Michael Balestri, WR/LB AJ Cammisa and DB Maxwell Egbujor.
The Gaels are a thinking-man's bunch, with some zip.
"I think we're fast and we're gonna be a lot smarter than a lot of other teams because we put in so much time from the end of last season up until now," Nobida said. "The mental game is what we're going to have."
Last year Dublin leaned pretty heavily on Rudolph when he was healthy. This year it will be more success-by-committee. Wade was pleased with players' work ethic and unity in the first week of practice.
"The kids had a really good offseason," Wade said. "They're a team that understands that we've lost some people from last year, but other guys have stepped up in the offseason with their work ethic. I think that we're going to have to play really as a team this year. We don't have a bunch of superstar athletic kids. We've got guys that have worked hard and, hopefully, will play well as a group."
Wade expects the DFAL to be typically balanced with a lot of well-coached teams that know each other well. Campolindo, which is seeking a third consecutive league title, has to be considered the favorite; otherwise it looks wide open, he says.
Aug. 30 at Alameda L 33-20
Sept. 6 WOODSIDE 7 p.m.
Sept. 13 at Montgomery 7 p.m.
Sept. 20 at Ygnacio Valley 7 p.m.
Sopt. 27 at Miramonte* 7 p.m.
Oct. 4 DOUGHERTY VAL.* 7 p.m.
Oct. 11 LAS LOMAS* 7 p.m.
Oct. 18 at Alhambra* 7 p.m.
Oct. 25 ACALANES* 7 p.m.
Nov. 8 at Campolindo* 7 p.m.