WALNUT CREEK -- A new level of excitement surrounds the Berean Christian High football team this season. And it's not just because the Eagles have a number of key returning players from last year's eight-win campaign.
Through North Coast Section realignment, Berean Christian, along with Salesian and Valley Christian, has moved from the Bay Foothill League to the Tri-County League's Rock Division. Also in the new division are El Cerrito, St. Mary's, St. Patrick-St. Vincent and Pinole Valley.
Six of those teams made the NCS playoffs in 2011, which leads coaches in the Rock Division to the easy conclusion that there will be no soft games on the calendar this season.
"It just adds more excitement to the season. They're all really good teams," Berean Christian coach Mark Barcelon said. "The competition level in league play will be a huge step up for us. We still face the best teams that we played last year in league, and then you add teams like Pinole Valley and El Cerrito. It just makes every week that much more exciting."
Berean Christian had its best season in recent memory last year, going 7-3 in the regular season and 4-1 in the BFL. Then the Eagles advanced to the quarterfinals of the NCS Division IV playoffs, beating Moreau Catholic in the first round for their first postseason win since 2001. Berean Christian lost the following week to Fortuna.
If the Eagles want to get back to that level, they'll have to do it without a
But Barcelon is starting to like the makeup of this season's team. Quarterback Garrett Anderson is back for his senior year, and he has running backs Ethan Anderson, Cole Temple and Caleb Schwitters joining him in the backfield.
Dominic Barich, at 6-foot-6 and 300 pounds, anchors the offensive line.
"He's just bigger, faster and stronger," Barcelon said of Garrett Anderson. "He's a good leader and a team captain for us. He reads defenses well. We're just looking forward to him having a good year for us."
Barcelon said he expects the Eagles offense to have the same kind of balance it did last year between the run and the pass. Seniors Carter Newton and Aaron Alexander will be two of Garrett Anderson's primary receivers this season.
Several of Berean Christian's offensive starters will also have to make an impact on defense. Among the top newcomers to the Eagles' defense this year are cornerback Hunter Lockhart and defensive lineman Brannan Stewart.
Those players will have to be on their toes in a league that features a number of players being recruited by NCAA Division I programs, including receiver/defensive back Marcellus Pippins (El Cerrito) and defensive lineman Deonte Reynolds (Pinole Valley).
"We expect to be a good team," Barcelon said. "We're excited about being in a new league and the challenge that'll bring every week."
8/24 at St. Helena 7:30 p.m.
9/1 EMERY 1:30 p.m.
9/8 M. VISTA CHR. 1:30 p.m.
9/14 at Mt. Diablo 7 p.m.
9/22 ST. PAT.-ST. VIN.* 1:30 p.m.
9/29 ST. MARY'S* 1:30 p.m.
10/5 at El Cerrito* 7 p.m.
10/12 P. VALLEY* (N.gate) 7 p.m.
10/19 at V. Chr.* (Chabot) 7 p.m.
10/27 at Salesian* 1:30 p.m.
* League games
Home games in CAPS