BERKELEY -- There's no question that the Berkeley High football team graduated a lot of talent from last season, including offensive stars Rudolpho James and Sir-Devonta Stewart.
But Berkeley coach Fred Sims is very excited about this year's team, which opens its season on Aug. 31 against Monte Vista.
"I love this group, not to say I didn't love the previous group," Sims said. "We show how young we are at times, good and bad. The thing for us this season ... is for us to be consistent and limit our mistakes."
The Yellowjackets have less than 45 players on the squad this year, but are filled with quality players, Sims said. They have a powerful weapon in kicker/punter Sam Boyden, who is drawing interest from many colleges according to Sims. Boyden connected on 51-yard and 40-yard field goals against Pinole Valley last year. Quarterback Lamont Smith was forced into a pressure situation in a 2011 North Coast Section Division I quarterfinal playoff game when regular starting quarterback Stewart got hurt while playing defensive back early in the game. Smith led Berkeley on both of its scoring drives and was 6 for 14 for 140 yards and no interceptions in a 28-10 loss to Pittsburg.
"He has a strong arm and he has a good knowledge of the offense," Sims said.
Five players (Haram Hairston, John Adams, Marlon Walker, Michael Lazarus and Akil Bordelon) will all see a number of carries this season.
"Our guys are interchangeable,"
Bordelon and Marce Stewart are among the receivers to watch, while the offensive line is anchored by three returners (Jordan Carroll, Deandre Diggs-Ray and Ashton Smith), not to mention standout tight end Xavier Nelson. San Diego State, Fresno State, University of San Diego and Utah are among the schools looking at him, Sims said.
Defensively, Lazarus and Walker lead the defense from their linebacker positions, and Omari White is a dangerous pass rusher.
After competing for years in the Alameda Contra Costa Athletic League (which Berkeley won in 2011), the Yellowjackets move to the West Alameda County Conference this season. The football squad will be competing in the tough Foothill Division, which includes other defending league champions such as Bishop O'Dowd (Hayward Area Athletic League) and Encinal (Bay Shore Athletic League).
"It's going to be awesome. I'm really looking forward to the challenge," Sims said.
In the 125th year of the football program at Berkeley, the Yellowjackets hope it will be a successful one.
8/31 at Monte Vista 7 p.m.
9/7 LINCOLN-STOCK. 7 p.m.
9/14 at Pittsburg 7 p.m.
9/21 at James Logan 7 p.m.
10/5 at Hayward (Sunset)* 7 p.m.
10/12 ENCINAL* 7 p.m.
10/19 SAN LEANDRO* 7 p.m.
10/26 at Bishop O'Dowd* 7 p.m.
11/2 CASTRO VALLEY* 7 p.m.
* League games