DUBLIN -- The Dublin High football team hopes that practicing during Thanksgiving week becomes routine.
After five straight losing seasons, the Gaels enjoyed a solid 2011 season under new head coach John Wade. They won eight games -- the same win total as past three years combined -- and advanced to the North Coast Section Division II semifinals.
While there are some new faces key positions, Dublin hopes last year's playoff run was not a one-time deal. Behind a strong senior class, the Gaels aim to build off last year's success.
"(Playoffs) are more of an expectation -- they want to get at least as far as they got last year," Wade said.
The first game of the season provided more evidence that Dublin is indeed a program on the upswing. The Gaels earned a 28-22 victory over San Leandro, a traditionally strong Division I team.
Senior running back Ondre Rudolph, a three-year varsity player, rushed for 189 yards and scored three touchdowns. His 24-yard run in the fourth quarter was the game-winner, breaking a 22-22 tie.
"Ondre had a great offseason as far as the weight room and conditioning," Wade said. "He's assumed that role of being a leader."
Wade hopes that Rudolph can stay healthy and remain a playmaker to take some of the pressure off new quarterback Josh Nobida. The sophomore, who replaces three-year starter Ed Achziger under center, went 8 of 21 for 85 yards with two touchdowns and one interception in his varsity
"He has a strong arm and is a good athlete," Wade said of Nobida. "I think the thing that sticks out with me this offseason is from a football intelligence standpoint. He's a smart kid with a good football sense. He asks good questions."
Returning wide receivers Josh Yu, Cory Thurman and Mark Dorsett along with tight end Alex Cappa give Nobida experienced targets.
The Gaels return six starters on both sides of the ball, and Wade thinks the defense will carry the team in the early parts of the season as Nobida and company get up to speed.
Among the key returning defensive players are tackle Spencer Hollie, linebacker Dennis Barber, cornerback Tristan Elias and linebacker Cesar Saavedra. All four seniors are part of a graduating class that won nine games as freshmen, eight as sophomores and went 8-5 last year as juniors on the varsity team.
With playoffs again the goal, Wade didn't schedule lightly in the preseason even with a challenging Diablo Foothill Athletic League schedule ahead. In addition to San Leandro, the Gaels also play Benicia (7-4 in 2011) and Amador Valley of the East Bay Athletic League.
8/24 SAN LEANDRO W 28-22
8/31 at Benicia 7 p.m.
9/7 AMADOR VALLEY 7 p.m.
9/15 FRESNO 7 p.m.
9/21 MIRAMONTE* 7 p.m.
9/28 at Dougherty Valley* 7 p.m.
10/5 at Las Lomas* 7 p.m.
10/12 ALHAMBRA* 7 p.m.
10/19 at Acalanes* 7 p.m.
11/1 CAMPOLINDO* 7 p.m.