Here's a look at how local football squads will fare this fall:
Cathedral Catholic, 2009 A.G. (After Gaffney)
Cathedral Catholic has had plenty of time to celebrate last season's Div. III state title.
But after taking particularly heavy graduation hits at skilled positions, they're now preparing to defend it without most of the familiar names that made headlines last season - a group that includes running back sensation Tyler Gaffney, a two-sport standout who's now at Stanford.
They'll look to develop a raw but untested cast around an offensive line and defense that figure to be among the county's most dominant.
The Dons ability to handle the pressure that comes with their recent past - they've won two straight San Diego Section titles along with last year's state crown - will have a lot to do with whether they meet the program's lofty expectations, coach Sean Doyle said.
The early returns suggest they're handling it well.
"They know it's a new year and they know most people could care less what we did last year except that they want to beat us more," Doyle said. "It doesn't appear that they feel pressure to perform at any crazy level."
Last season, the Dons performed at what from a statistical standpoint was sheer insanity, with Gaffney setting a county record with 57 touchdown and the Dons outscoring their opponents by an unheard of 29.9 points per game average in a perfect 14-0 campaign that extended a winning streak going back to 2007 to 21 games.
"This year is this year and we're really not living off of what we did last year," Doyle said.
"It's time to start a new history and see what we can do."
Senior quarterback Max Brewer is in many ways the face of the new-look Dons.
Brewer is an excellent athlete with a powerful arm and good decision-making skills. But he fills big shoes. Brewer, who threw just five passes last season, replaces standout Parker Hipp, who threw for more than 2,500 yards and 23 touchdowns last year.
The Dons will feature a three running back set, with senior running back Derek Thomas and junior fullback Jonny Martin, along with a rotation in the third slot involving juniors Cory Garcia and Chris Kilroy and sophomore J.J. Stavola.
Other key newcomers include junior tight end Blake Wolfe and place kicker/punter John Wells.
The Dons most experienced player is senior receiver Chance Early. The son of former Chargers receiver Quinn, Early last season was among the team's leaders with 341 receiving yards and four touchdowns.
Senior Alex Crofthwaite, a 310-pound University of California-bound offensive tackle, anchors a solid offensive line that averages about 250 pounds.
The line also features guards David Barton and James Vecchio, tackle Andre In, and center Alex Neff.
Junior Mustafa Jaleel a 6-foot-4, 305-pound defensive lineman, is among the county's most feared defenders and could be the team's most coveted recruit.
"He's absolutely unreal," Doyle said of Jaleel. "He's got an incredible motor and he's incredibly strong. He might be the best in the state."