CONCORD -- When he took the head coaching job at Mt. Diablo High last year, Bryan Shaw knew it would take some hard work to get the program headed in the right direction.
There were some growing pains, to be sure. The Red Devils went 2-8 overall in 2012, suffering some demoralizing losses while the roster size dwindled.
But entering a new year, spirits are high.
"It's a blessing," Shaw said. "I love being here."
Shaw is excited about his returning skill players and has been working to make sure his players remain motivated and eligible.
The Red Devils began their season Aug. 30 with a 42-11 loss to Moreau Catholic. Darneail Jenkins kicked a 32-yard field goal to give Mt. Diablo an early 3-0 lead and later led 11-7 on Austin Hunt's 31-yard touchdown pass to Davail Jenkins. But it was all Mariners after that.
How the rest of the season plays out on the field remains to be seen, but Shaw is already seeing growth in his players.
"I think they're starting to come together as a group," Shaw said. "We've been preaching a lot about family. They hold each other accountable. It's not so much coaches policing them as it was last year. They don't want to let their teammates down.
"I think the kids have learned it's not just about athletic ability, it's about technique and putting in the work."
The offense looks to be a little ahead of the defense in the early stages of the year with the quarterback Hunt and wide receivers Darneail Jenkins, Daniyl Hawkins and Davail Jenkins all returning.
The offensive line will be brand new, though.
"It'll be another learning year, but I'll have all of these offensive linemen back next year," Shaw said.
Options at running back include newcomers Michael Dukes and Kenneth Bell.
Mt. Diablo's defense could get a boost with the addition of 6-foot-4, 360-pound nose tackle Fifita Hafoka. The junior will be playing football for the school for the first time. His brother, Fine Hafoka, will play safety.
Darneail Jenkins will also be important to the team's defense from his linebacker position. Shaw says the athletic senior is getting looks from Division I schools.
Though summer workouts were sparsely attended and the roster stood at 24 players before the first day of school, Shaw is hopeful more will come out for the team.
"We just need to get technically better and have kids at practice everyday," Shaw said. "It's about keeping kids motivated to come out and work."
8/30 MOREAU CATH. L 42-11
9/6 SAN LORENZO 7 p.m.
9/13 FREMONT-OAK. 7 p.m.
9/21 at Berean Chr. 1:30 p.m.
9/27 MT. EDEN 7 p.m.
10/11 at Northgate* 7 p.m.
10/18 COLLEGE PARK* 7 p.m.
10/25 CLAYTON VALLEY* 7 p.m.
11/1 at Ygnacio Valley* 7 p.m.
11/8 at Concord* 7 p.m.