San Leandro High's football team, led by the returning West Alameda County Conference-Foothill Division Offensive Player of the Year Stephen Johnson, looks primed to successfully defend its title.
"We have a lot of pieces, a lot of quality guys coming back," San Leandro coach Brad Bowers said.
Bishop O'Dowd and Encinal have new coaches this season. Napoleon Kaufman, the former Raiders star, leads the Dragons. Ricky Rodriguez, the offensive coordinator last season at Piedmont, is now the head coach at Encinal.
Tennyson has moved from the Shoreline Division, with Hayward taking Tennyson's place in that division.
There's one similarity between all six teams in the Foothill Division -- they all return a quarterback with varsity experience at the position.
Here's a look at each of the division's teams:
COACH: James Barnes, second season
2013 RECORD: 3-7, 1-4 WACC-Foothill
TOP RETURNEES: QB Noah Suszckiewicz, Sr.; MLB/OL Isaiah Cassidy, Sr.; LT Henry Bazakas, Sr.
TOP NEWCOMERS: ATH Isaiah Tapia, Sr.; RB Daytwon Hand, Sr.; RB/DB Marlon Fountain, Jr.; LB/TE Dohn Bui, Jr.; DT/OL Elvin Torian, Jr.; WR Dreysean Hudson, Jr.; RB/DB Devon Meredith, Jr.
KEY LOSSES: OLB/TE Michael Lazarus, QB/FS Lamont Smith, WR/DB Travis Dennis, LB/RB Hiram Hairston, OL/DL Jordan Carroll
OUTLOOK: The young Yellowjackets have only two returning starters on offense, but they are strong-armed quarterback Suszckiewicz and 6-foot-6, 285-pound left tackle Bazakas. Suszckiewicz missed all but the first three games of last season with a broken ankle. Hand should get a number of carries this season, and the Yellowjackets have depth at running back this season with Meredith and Fountain. Hudson could be a good target for Suszckiewicz. Cassidy is a returning starter defensively. Barnes is looking for consistency and discipline from his team.
COACH: Napoleon Kaufman, first season
2013 RECORD: 3-7, 2-3
TOP RETURNEES: QB Chris Hagmaier, Sr.; RB/DB Bryce Grandison, Sr.; C Sam Deck, Sr.; TE Devon Owens, Sr.; LB Greg Iglesias, Sr.; FS Cory Barrios, Jr.; LB Camilo Eifler, Jr.; OG Avery Bilensky, So.; WR Deshawn Brown, Sr.; DE Dingane Kendricks, Sr.
TOP NEWCOMERS: LT Alijah Tucker, So.; WR Damani Ballard, Jr.; RB Ethan Baker, So.
KEY LOSSES: MLB/TE Alex Holme, OG/DE Julian Soto, DB/WR John Zelaski, TE/DL Majied Bey, OL/DL Will Han, OLB/RB Del Lyles
OUTLOOK: The Dragons return their top quarterback (Hagmaier) and running back (Grandison) from last year's squad, and their big offensive line is paced by Tucker and second-team all-WACC-Foothill center Deck. Ballard and second-team all-WACC-Foothill pick Brown aid O'Dowd's air attack. Kendricks anchors the defensive line. Iglesias and Eifler are players to watch at the linebacker position, and Barrios paces the secondary. "I have a great group of kids who are working extremely hard," Kaufman said. "They are picking up my system extremely fast."
COACH: Nic McMaster, sixth season
2013 RECORD: 4-7, 3-2
TOP RETURNEES: QB/LB Kevin Galvan, Sr.; RB/DB Namane Modise, Sr.; QB/DL Brenden Brown, Sr.; FB/LB Angelo Salazar, Sr.; OL/DL Dimitrius Monzon, Sr.; C/DL Nick Dang, Sr.; OL/DL Blake Brown, Sr.
TOP NEWCOMERS: FB/LB Connor Piper, Jr.; RB/LB Raekwon Criss, Jr.; TE/LB Nick Klunis, Jr.; OL/DL Antonio Garcia, Jr.; OL/DL Cole Sanders, Jr.; TE/DL Joaquin Soto, Jr.; QB/DB Brian Tognolini Jr.
KEY LOSSES: RB/LB Demareyeh Lane, DL/OT Anant Tikku, RB/LB Nick Alfaro, DE/OG Andrew Vonderheid, C/DT Matt Marsh
OUTLOOK: The Trojans have four starters returning on offense, including Modise. But Castro Valley will have a huge hole to fill with the graduation of Lane, who was a top-notch running back and the WACC-Foothill Defensive Player of the Year last season. "We are not replacing him with one guy; we are replacing him with a couple guys," McMaster said. Castro Valley has depth at quarterback this season and there is a chance that all three will see action. The Trojans have also fared well in WACC-Foothill play, achieving winning records the past two seasons.
COACH: Ricky Rodriguez, first season
2013 RECORD: 8-3, 4-1
TOP RETURNEES: QB/LB Taivale Tautalatasi, Sr.; RB/DB Brandon Duckett, So.; OL/DL Ken Horton, Sr.; DL/OL Jaylon Wilson, Jr.; LB/H-Back Dayvon Dawkins, Jr.; WR/DB David Taylor, So.; OL/DL Darius Long, So.; OL/DL Taheed Flowers, So.
TOP NEWCOMERS: LB/H-back Amos Ve'e, Jr.; WR/DB Louis Otis, Sr.
KEY LOSSES: ILB/TE Kealii Pedro, RB/SS Isaiah Hunter, RB/FS Tyrell Carrigan, OLB/FB Austin Ve'e, RT/DT D'Quan Williams, LG Matt Ferrer, DT Elijah Wilson, RB/CB Jordan Parker, ILB/RB Carlos McClure, ILB/QB Isaac Tapia
OUTLOOK: Rodriguez was the receivers and quarterbacks coach (and the head junior varsity coach) at Washington-Fremont for four years, then the running backs and defensive backs coach at Clayton Valley in 2012 before being the Highlanders' offensive coordinator last season. The very young Jets had five freshmen who played on the varsity team last year, including Duckett, Taylor, Long and Flowers. "We have tons of skills players. We want to get out in space," said Rodriguez about his squad. Tautalatasi is the team's leader and Duckett is the team's top running back. Otis and Taylor lead the receiving corps, while Horton anchors the offensive line at guard. Jaylon Wilson leads the defensive line, while Dawkins and Duckett are also strong defensive players for the Jets. Jordan Parker, who was a first-team all-WACC-Foothill kick returner and defensive back as well as a talented running back, has transferred to Pittsburg, Rodriguez said.
COACH: Brad Bowers, 12th season
2013 RECORD: 6-5, 5-0
TOP RETURNEES: QB/DB Stephen Johnson, Sr.; WR/FS Reuben Baker, Sr.; OL/LB David Fields, Sr.; OL/DE Tori Leota, Jr.; WR/DB Troy Hearne, Sr.; RB/MLB Sonny Sowles, Sr.; T/DE Brandon Stanley. Sr.
TOP NEWCOMERS: RB/OLB Omari Land, So.; RB/CB Norman Haddix, So.; C/DT Jesus Velazquez, Sr.; OT/DT Tyler Stevenson, Sr.; LB/TE Antonio Stevenson, So; TE/OLB Jahari Kay, So.; RB/CB Ricky Walker, Jr.; RB/QB Derrick Purvis, So.
KEY LOSSES: RB/SS Finau Mataafa, RB/DE/LB O'Brien Younger, OL/DL Malik Leblanc, TE/OLB Keone Foumai, OL/DL Demytrick Aliifua, RB/OLB Ruben Garcia-Ceja, RB/LB Diego Rojas.
OUTLOOK: The tandem of Johnson and Baker on offense could be an explosive one again this season. Johnson passed for 939 yards and six touchdowns -- five of those scores went to first-team all-WACC pick Baker, who caught 21 passes for 392 yards. With Johnson's rushing abilities (728 yards, 13 TD's last season), the Pirates' offense will be hard to contain again this season. Baker was also a starter on defense last season and along with Hearne give the Pirates an experienced secondary. "We have a lot of guys that played a lot of time last year. At the same time, I think we're young," Bowers said.
COACH: Terry Smith, 12th season
2013 RECORD: 7-4, 4-1 WACC-Shoreline
TOP RETURNEES: QB Christian Silva, Jr.; WR/DB Xavier Thibodeaux, Sr.; TE/OLB Roland Ocansey, Sr.; WR/DB Tyreece King, Sr.; DT/OG Stanley Falenofoa, Jr.; RB/WR Jacob Watson, Sr.; LB/OG Melvin Day, Sr.; LT/DE Alex Aguilera, Sr.; C/DL Carlos Robles, Sr.; DT Peter Siliga, So.; RB/LB Jeremiah Uson, Sr.; K Kendrick Roldon, Sr.; TE/SS Armondo Camacho, Jr.
TOP NEWCOMERS: WR/CB Kenny Shaw, Sr.; RB/DB Tavite Lopeti, Jr.; WR/DB Jhayvee Daily, Jr.; DE/TE Luis Lopez, Sr.; OL/DE Noe Alvarez, Jr.; OL/DL Alex Barajas, Jr.
KEY LOSSES: RB/LB Joshua Handy, RB/CB Isaiah Rogers, CB/WR Vonte Andrews, OG/DE Paco Williams, DT/LT Maka Lopeti, OL/LB Mario Saballos
OUTLOOK: After forging to a 9-1 record in two seasons in the Shoreline Division, the Lancers now take on a new challenge in the Foothill Division. Tennyson looks to make a seamless transition. "We're used to being the smaller school enrollment-wise," Smith said. "We face big teams in the summer." Silva passed for 1,523 yards and 17 touchdowns, and also ran for 463 yards and seven TDs last season. Thibodeaux led the Lancers with 37 catches for 715 yards and seven touchdowns last season.
9/5 at Monte Vista 7 p.m.
9/12 at Liberty 7:15 p.m.
9/19 at Pittsburg 7 p.m.
9/26 HERITAGE 7 p.m.
10/3 VACAVILLE 7 p.m.
10/10 SAN LEANDRO* 7 p.m.
10/17 at Bishop O'Dowd* 7 p.m.
10/24 CASTRO VALLEY* 7 p.m.
10/31 at Tennyson* 3:30 p.m.
11/7 ENCINAL* 7 p.m.
9/5 at Terra Nova 7 p.m.
9/12 WOOD 7 p.m.
9/20 at St. Mary's-Berk. 1:30 p.m.
9/26 OAKLAND TECH 7 p.m.
10/3 JAMES LOGAN 7 p.m.
10/10 at Tennyson* 3:45 p.m.
10/17 BERKELEY* 7 p.m.
10/24 at San Leandro* 7 p.m.
10/31 at Encinal* 7 p.m.
11/7 CASTRO VALLEY* 7 p.m.
8/29 MONTE VISTA 7 p.m.
9/5 at Acalanes 7 p.m.
9/12 CALIFORNIA 7 p.m.
9/19 at Foothill 7 p.m.
10/26 at James Logan 7 p.m.
10/10 ENCINAL* 7 p.m.
10/17 TENNYSON* 7 p.m.
10/24 at Berkeley* 7 p.m.
10/31 SAN LEANDRO* 7 p.m.
11/7 at Bishop O'Dowd* 7 p.m.
8/29 EUREKA 7 p.m.
9/5 at Amador Valley 7 p.m.
9/12 at Acalanes 7 p.m.
9/26 CENTER-ANTELOPE 7:30 p.m.
10/3 at Alameda 7 p.m.
10/10 at Castro Valley* 7 p.m.
10/17 SAN LEANDRO* 7 p.m.
10/24 TENNYSON* 7 p.m.
10/31 BISHOP O'DOWD* 7 p.m.
11/7 at Berkeley* 7 p.m.
8/30 JAMES LOGAN 1:45 p.m.
9/6 at American 7 p.m.
9/13 LOWELL 1:45 p.m.
9/19 at Acalanes 7 p.m.
9/26 MT. EDEN 3:45 p.m.
10/10 BISHOP O'DOWD* 3:45 p.m.
10/17 at Castro Valley* 7 p.m.
10/24 at Encinal* 7 p.m.
10/31 BERKELEY* 3:30 p.m.
11/7 at San Leandro* 7 p.m.
8/29 FOOTHILL 7 p.m.
9/5 JAMES LOGAN 7 p.m.
9/12 at Bellarmine** 7 p.m.
9/26 LIBERTY 7:30 p.m.
10/10 at Berkeley* 7 p.m.
10/17 at Encinal* 7 p.m.
10/24 BISHOP O'DOWD* 7 p.m.
10/31 at Castro Valley* 7 p.m.
11/7 TENNYSON* 7 p.m.
**at San Jose City College
1. San Leandro
2. Castro Valley
3. Bishop O'Dowd
Coming Next week
A team-by-team preview of the Oakland Athletic League and the West Alameda County Conference's Shoreline Division will appear Aug. 29 in this newspaper.