Just about every year, Campolindo High football coach Kevin Macy laments the holes he has to fill after graduation.
This year the holes are a little bigger than usual, but that doesn't mean the team is going to struggle.
An outstanding senior class keyed last season's improbable playoff run that culminated in a North Coast Section Division III championship and state bowl game appearance. The 14-1 campaign seemed unlikely after the Cougars went 5-6 in an injury-plagued 2010, finishing last in the Diablo Foothill Athletic League standings.
While those seniors will be missed dearly, especially on defense, the cupboard is far from bare for Macy and the Cougars.
They return one of the most talented quarterbacks in the East Bay in senior Brett Stephens, along with experience on the offensive line.
"Everything will revolve around Brett, he'll need to break in a whole new group of receivers," Macy said. "I think he's mature enough for us to say we're putting everything on his shoulders."
Stephens, a standout two-sport athlete who has committed to play baseball at UCLA, still has wide receiver Mason Windatt to throw to and will be protected by an offensive line with three returning starters.
Windatt will be the primary receiver after backing up Griffin Piatt and Karl Thornton a year ago. Matt Yoklavich and Phillip Rei will also be targets for Stephens.
Ryan Hoffman, who carried the ball 30 times for 117 yards last
But defense is the area that concerns Macy the most, simply because just about every starter will be brand new. Defensive back J.J. Ewing is the lone returning starter though C.J. Toohey got regular playing time on the defensive line.
"Our defense just got gutted," Macy said. "We almost feel everything is brand new on defense. We know we'll give up some points."
Though the defense will be inexperienced, that doesn't necessarily mean it won't be good. The school's football program is as strong as ever with last year's junior varsity and freshman teams combining to go 19-1.
With the pieces the Cougars do return and the overall recent success of the program, opposing coaches still expect them to challenge for the DFAL title.
Macy thinks defending their championship will be a challenge, and not just because they have several areas of inexperience. Even in summer camps, opposing teams were highly motivated to beat the Cougars, Macy said.
"Of course (the players) are excited, but they know everyone is gunning for them," Macy said. "We played one championship game last year, we'll play 10 this year."
8/24 at Moreau Catholic 7 p.m.
8/31 ST. PAT.-ST. VIN. 7 p.m.
9/7 at S. Heart Cathedral 7 p.m.
9/14 EL CERRITO 7 p.m.
9/21 ACALANES* 7 p.m.
9/28 at Miramonte* 7 p.m.
10/12 LAS LOMAS* 7 p.m.
10/19 at Alhambra* 7 p.m.
10/26 DOUGHERTY VALLEY* 7 p.m.
11/1 at Dublin* 7 p.m.