MARTINEZ -- The seniors on the Alhambra High football team are looking for a happy ending to what has so far been a turbulent high school career.
With good chemistry, team speed, an experienced quarterback and a revamped playbook, the Bulldogs have reason to be optimistic that this season will turn out better than the last few.
Last season's disappointing 3-7 campaign ended with the Bulldogs missing the playoffs for the second straight time and marked another rough year for the class of 2014.
It came after a freshman season that was cut short due to a hazing incident, the effects of which carried over to their junior varsity season the following year.
"We have just enough senior guys working their way into a leadership role," said Alan Hern, Alhambra's fourth-year coach. "They've been through a topsy-turvy career. There are guys taking charge more, but they're a little behind a normal senior class."
It's been a rocky year for Hern, too. In April, his son Aaron, was severely injured by shrapnel in the Boston Marathon bombings and endured multiple surgeries.
The physical and emotional recovery is still a work in progress for the 12-year-old, though he is back playing football and recently starred at Martinez's league swim meet.
Spring football started not long after the Hern family returned home from Boston, and the Bulldogs' coach admitted that his "heart wasn't totally in it."
Things have gotten better since, though, and Hern has made some changes that he hopes will lead to better execution in games and more Alhambra wins. He has simplified the playbook and reworked the Bulldogs' practice structure and tempo in order to spend more time on defense.
"You're only as good as what your kids know, which is a hard lesson for coaches to learn," Hern said. "We had to rework a lot of stuff to make it simpler and make it easier for them to execute."
Personnel-wise, the Bulldogs have some solid players to build around.
Hern says the Bulldogs have depth at the skill positions and the secondary is as good as it's been in awhile.
Though they lose standout running back Taylor Poyadue and lineman Miguel Lara, who was an all-league first time pick on both sides of the ball, the team has an experienced quarterback in Josh Evans. The junior shared the job with Leo Costa last year.
"He's a natural leader and a good fit for us in our offense," Hern said of Evans, who can also make plays with his legs.
Costa returns as well, but will slide over to wide receiver. Junior Ciazonne Foster should be a big factor in the running game and returners Matt Brady, Hugo Paredes and Max Licht will anchor the offensive line.
Two-time defending champion Campolindo enters the season as the favorite in the Diablo Foothill Athletic League, but the race looks wide open after that.
"If we can minimize any big time injuries, we should be in that mix with everyone else," Hern said.
8/30 COLLEGE PARK 7 p.m.
9/6 at Rancho Cotate 7:30 p.m.
9/13 at Ygnacio valley 7 p.m.
9/20 MARIA CARRILLO 7:30 p.m.
9/27 LAS LOMAS* 7 p.m.
10/11 at Dougherty Valley* 7 p.m.
10/18 DUBLIN* 7 p.m.
10/25 at Campolindo* 7 p.m.
11/1 at Acalanes* 7 p.m.
11/8 MIRAMONTE* 7 p.m.