WALNUT CREEK -- Two years ago, a group of sophomores gained valuable experience as youngsters on the Las Lomas High varsity football team.
Last year, they were instrumental in a solid 9-3 season that ended in the North Coast Section Division II quarterfinals.
Now those players are seniors, and opposing Diablo Foothill Athletic League coaches know that extensive varsity experience will make the Knights a handful this season.
"They're a very good group of kids and play very well together," Knights coach Doug Longero said of his seniors. "In some spots we're pretty explosive."
Las Lomas returns seven starters on offense and seven on defense, including two options at quarterback, its top receiver, a standout lineman and most of its linebackers and defensive backs.
The team will miss Jake Villa, a two-way star at running back and defensive back last year, and lineman Mitch Frentescu (Colorado State) but doesn't have too many gaping holes to fill overall.
Offensively, the passing game is seasoned. Longero has two experienced quarterbacks he can turn to in Adam Wood and Jackson Miller while receiver Robby Ow also returns.
Miller started under center last year before getting hurt. Wood took over and fared well in Miller's absense, then the two shared the quarterbacking duties when Miller returned.
This year Wood, who also plays linebacker, will have the edge when the season gets underway Aug. 24 with a road game at
Miller was in Indianapolis training with the junior national swimming team when fall practice got underway and has been invited to participate in the junior Pan Pacific Championships Aug. 23-27 in Hawaii.
"It'll be a battle throughout the season," Longero said of the quarterback situation. "Right now we'll play it out and see where it goes."
As for the running game, Kyle Hill will likely be the featured back with Garret McGoff and Greyson Bromstad also getting carries.
Derrick Stom will anchor the offensive and defensive lines. Longero is excited about the senior, who was a DFAL first-team pick on both offense and defense last year.
"He's explosive," Longero said of Stom. "He's 280 pounds and very athletic for a kid his size."
Longero also calls senior kicker Mitchell Howard "a weapon."
Other key returning players include lineman Connor Sanson, tight end Brayton Milner, linebacker Nick Abramson and wide receiver/defensive back Cole Gravitt.
"We have a big senior class and a lot of experience," Longero said. "We've just gotta get everyone healthy."
8/24 at Bishop O'Dowd 7 p.m.
8/31 MISSION SAN JOSE 7 p.m.
9/7 FOOTHILL 7 p.m.
9/14 NORTHGATE 7 p.m.
9/21 ALHAMBRA* 7 p.m.
9/28 at Acalanes* 7 p.m.
10/5 DUBLIN* 7 p.m.
10/12 at Campolindo* 7 p.m.
10/26 MIRAMONTE* 7 p.m.
11/2 at Dougherty Valley* 7 p.m.