CONCORD -- Phillip Puentes understands that building a football program is a process. The second-year coach at Ygnacio Valley High School spent his first season at the helm trying to impart that to his players.
Now, coming off of back-to-back 2-8 seasons, the Warriors are ready to see some progress.
"We were really young last year," Puentes said. "We changed the foundation and changed the culture of the program since last year. Some guys we lost because they didn't want to work that way. We have a great nucleus that wants to win really bad. We're trying to get these guys to understand its a process to get from A to B."
That process has included setting higher goals for the program's future and bringing back famous alumni to talk about the successes of the past. This past summer, Ygnacio Valley alum and longtime head coach at Oregon Mike Bellotti came to the school's Hall of Fame dinner.
"He came to talk to the kids the night before," Puentes said. "He told them to, 'Win the day.' That carried through on our kids."
Winning the day will fall largely onto the backs of returners Christian Maravilla, Khalil Branch and Will Rivas. Maravilla, a 6-foot-3, 245-pound offensive lineman, will likely line up at left tackle.
"He's a stud," Puentes said. "He's been invited to a couple of combines. He's fast enough to run the zone and he's tough enough to run the power game. Finding lineman that can move and be athletic as well as physically imposing is tough to do."
Branch is a returning starter at tailback. At 5-11, 230, he can provide matchup problems from the backfield in the Warriors' spread offense.
"He's a hybrid," Puentes said. "He's more of a power kind of guy that's going to lower the shoulders.
He'll be a huge asset to have. Being able to run the football is huge in high school football."
Rivas (5-9, 215) is an inside linebacker.
"He's one of those guys, he's a scrappy little guy, he likes contact," Puentes said. "He's a wrestler. He led the team in tackles last year. He's a great kid to be around, he knows what he wants to do in life and he's a leader on the defense."
Quarterback hasn't been decided yet. Puentes said the Warriors could start the season with a committee but will, hopefully, have a starter set by the start of league play.
Jumping from 2-8 to the North Coast Section playoffs may sound like a big leap, but Puentes is setting the expectations high.
"We're trying to drill these guys, 'If you're not winning eight football games at Ygnacio, you're not successful,'" he said. "That's our expectation (to reach the playoffs). The talent's here. We have the kids here to do it. Its just a matter of getting the kids to believe in themselves."
8/30 at Clovis East 7 p.m.
9/6 IRVINGTON 7 p.m.
9/13 ALHAMBRA 7 p.m.
9/20 DUBLIN 7 p.m.
9/27 at Amer. Canyon 7:30 p.m.
10/11 CONCORD* 7 p.m.
10/18 at Clayton Valley* 7 p.m.
10/25 NORTHGATE* 7 p.m.
11/1 MT. DIABLO* 7 p.m.
11/8 vs. Col. Park (at DVC)* 7 p.m.