With the amount of talent returning this season, the expectation might be that the Freedom High football team should be even better than the 2011 version that went 10-2.
Of course, football isn't that simple.
What is certain is the Falcons will open the season Aug. 24 at Amador Valley with one of the East Bay's best offenses on paper. Receiver Darrell Daniels is committed to Washington, quarterback Dante Mayes continues to receive more and more Division I interest and running back Joe Mixon, only a junior, is one of the area's top big-play threats.
Add five returning offensive linemen to that mix and points shouldn't be hard to come by for head coach Kevin Hartwig this year.
Where Freedom will have to answer some questions is on the other side of the ball. A unit that, if you exclude a season-ending loss to De La Salle, allowed an average of just over 15 points a game last year welcomes plenty of new faces this season.
"We return four guys that actually played in some capacity on defense," Hartwig said. "It kind of flip flopped. Last year we returned a huge defensive presence."
Of course, Hartwig has a pleasant dilemma on offense. Mayes returns for his third season as the starting signal-caller, and that experience means Hartwig can reach even further into his already diverse playbook.
"The biggest thing with Dante is staying within the realm of what we're going to do," Hartwig said. "He's pretty dialed in. He's a
It helps to have a talent like Daniels to throw to. According to Rivals.com, Daniels had 18 scholarship offers, with Oklahoma, Notre Dame, Michigan and Auburn among the heavyweights vying for the 6-foot-4, 205-pounder's services.
"Darrell is one of those special kids you only get a few times," Hartwig said. "We're going to find as many ways as we can to utilize him as an offensive and defensive weapon. We have a good supporting cast, which helps a lot, I think."
The schedule won't do Freedom any favors. What it will do is prepare the Falcons for the stretch run. Early-season games against Amador Valley, Foothill and Franklin-Elk Grove will prepare the team for what should be another competitive Bay Valley Athletic League campaign.
8/24 at Amador Valley 7 p.m.
8/31 at Foothill 7 p.m.
9/7 at Franklin-Elk Grove 7 p.m.
9/14 SAN LEANDRO 7 p.m.
9/21 at Castro Valley 7 p.m.
9/28 HERITAGE* 7 p.m.
10/12 at Pittsburg* 7 p.m.
10/19 ANTIOCH* 7 p.m.
10/26 DEER VALLEY* 7 p.m.
11/2 at Liberty* 7 p.m.