PLEASANTON -- The 2012 Amador Valley High football team provided a road map for success, with dramatic comeback wins and mature senior leadership.
The current team, in a rebuilding mode, will need to find its own path. But memories from last year's journey remain fresh.
"Our junior class learned a lot from the senior class last year," senior wideout/defensive back Parker Newman said during practice on Aug. 20. "So we're definitely using that to carry on with how things went."
Gone, of course, is standout quarterback Kyle Moreno, who's now at Brown, and all but one of the regular skill-position players from last season.
But Dons coach Rick Sira is pleased with the growth and development of some of the newcomers. He'll have to lean on the offensive and defensive lines while the other positions sort themselves out.
Sophomore Ronnie Jones and junior Zeke Burgermeister, both newcomers, have been battling evenly for the starting quarterback spot.
"The plan is we're going to lean on whatever we figure out that we do best," Sira said. "Obviously, our offensive line is going to be key. If those guys can play like we're hoping to, then it gives us flexibility even more running and throwing. And then as our quarterback develops, that will determine our ability to throw the ball."
Newman sees promise all around him and great attitudes.
"We have guys that want to be out here," he said. "They want to show what they can do. They want to show that they can get better. They want to show that, 'Hey, even though I'm a junior, and even though I didn't play last year, this is what I can do and I love being out here. This is what I want to do.'"
Returning two-way linemen Robert Faris, James Moore, Alex Jader and Jordan Mast will play key roles, along with tight end/outside linebacker Connor Scanlin. Other key returners are defensive back Kevan Knaggs, running back/linebacker Michael White and wideout/safety Collin Miller.
Faris said things are going well in practice.
"There are some big shoes to fill (from) last year, but they're filling them pretty well," said Faris, a left tackle/defensive end. "We've got two really good quarterbacks and a lot of depth on our receiver spot. The running backs are looking good, too."
Players only have to look at tape of last season's thrilling come-from-behind wins over Granada and Monte Vista and a rain-drenched victory over San Ramon Valley in the North Coast Section Division I quarterfinals to see how its done. The Dons placed third in the EBAL after dropping three of their first four league games.
"Obviously we had a bunch of talented kids, but they were just great kids who expected to do well," Sira said of the 2012 squad. "It took 'em a while to gain that confidence. It wasn't something that was there from day one. ... They were mature and serious, not just about football but everything that they did. I think the kids we have this year really looked up to those guys last year in the way they did all those things."
Sira also expects this team to improve as it goes -- a byproduct of the hard work the players put in during the offseason.
Faris, who put in massive time running, lifting weight and eating right, will attest to the unity of the squad. He sees it every day.
"Everyone's getting it, playing as a team, practicing as a team, and the mental stuff is coming really fast," Faris said.
Aug. 30 at Freedom 7 p.m.
Sept. 6 CONCORD 7 p.m.
Sept. 13 SKYLINE 7 p.m.
Sept. 27 MONTE VISTA* 7 p.m.
Oct. 4 CALIFORNIA* 7 p.m.
Oct. 11 at S. Ramon Valley* 7 p.m.
Oct. 18 LIVERMORE* 7 p.m.
Oct. 25 at De La Salle 7 p.m.
Nov. 1 at Granada* 7 p.m.
Nov. 8 at Foothill* 7 p.m.