The 2008 high school football season is officially here. Our special section - at www.modbee.com/hits - gives you all the nuts and bolts, and this column gives you an A-to-Z look at what to expect this season:
A is for Adams, Zack Adams. The Hughson quarterback had an 18-4 touchdown-to-interception ratio as a junior. No returning quarterbacks can match that.
B is for Boomer Green, the Enochs quarterback. He has a great running back behind him in Nate Thomas and three returning receivers in Steve Guzman, Cody Weaver and Kolton Matosich.
C is for Calaveras. The San Andreas school lost 10-year coach Roger Canepa to Central Catholic but is reloaded under new coach Jason Weatherby and linebackers Jake Mote and Gary Gellerman.
D is for depth, which is going to play a role in every league title race. Teams like Atwater have 64 players out, while Golden Valley has 29 varsity players.
E is for elite preseason opponents. Central Catholic (Cardinal Newman, Sutter, St. Mary's), Merced (Del Oro-Loomis, Edison-Fresno, Napa), Enochs (Del Oro, Vacaville) and Oakdale (West-Tracy, McClymonds-Oakland) have picked up tough opponents.
F is for frightening football, which is what Merced will be playing this year. The Bears have four players who have received scholarship offers from NCAA Division I schools and speed at pretty much every position. ESPN CalHiSports.com editor Mark Tennis says the Bears are one of the most talented teams in Northern California.
G is for ground and pound, the running game. Several teams are going to count on the running game almost exclusively to move the chains. Some include Johansen, Turlock, Manteca, Hilmar, Mariposa and Calaveras.
H is for home-field advantage. Some schools have a larger home-field advantage than others. Mariposa plays at the Mariposa County Fairgrounds. Sonora's band, the Golden Regiment, is one of the best around. Oakdale's Corral is always packed with fanatics.
I is for injuries. The season hasn't started for most teams, but there have already been some tough injuries. Promising Hilmar quarterback Quinton McCown broke his collarbone in a scrimmage, and Turlock QB Nick Crivelli, a returning starter, broke a bone in his leg at the end of the Bulldogs' scrimmage.
J is for Davis return man extraordinaire Justin Nesbitt. He took three kicks for touchdowns last season and could go for more this year. That's assuming opposing teams kick to him.
K is for the kicking game. Two of the area's top kickers are in Modesto. Central Catholic's Andrew Kelly is an extra-point machine, and Ben Bolin, formerly of Calvary Temple, is now at Johansen.
L is for Lathrop High School, the newest addition to the Stanislaus District. The Spartans won't field a varsity football team until 2010 but are competing at the lower levels.
M is for the Millennium Falcons, a Tracy school that will compete in the Harvest Christian League. Think the "Star Wars" fans are going to start picking up memorabilia?
N is for new coaches. There are seven across the district with high-profile changes at Central Catholic (Roger Canepa), Johansen (Jason McCoy) and Hughson (George Harp).
O is for online, which has become an even larger source for high school football junkies. The Modesto Bee has partnered with valleysportsxtra.com, a video-driven site run by Final Cut Media.
P is for passing attack. Some teams are going to throw the ball more than they run. They include Beyer, Central Valley, Patterson and Turlock Christian.
Q is for Modesto's Quarterback Club. Still going strong at Hero's Sports Bar in downtown Modesto on Mondays at noon. The first meeting is Monday.
R> is for rushing the passer. Some teams have a great line that will get after the quarterback. They include Modesto, Johansen, Merced, Manteca and Escalon.
S is for state championship bowl games. A handful of district teams have the potential to play in one of these games. They include Merced, Oakdale, Central Catholic and Modesto Christian.
T is for Thursday games. Because the six public schools in Modesto share two stadiums, there will always be a Thursday game once league play begins.
U is for underdogs. With only 20 players on its roster, Turlock Christian was a true underdog in most of its games last year. But the Eagles went 10-0 before losing in the second round of the playoffs. Who's going to be that underdog this year?
V is for victories. Escalon coach Mark Loureiro is 12 wins shy of 200 for his career. To do it this year, his Cougars will have to make the section championship game. I think Couch Lou wouldn't mind that at all.
W is for wide-open league races. This year, it looks like the Modesto Metro Conference and Southern League in particular will go down to the wire.
X is for eXtra-small rosters, such as Delhi's 16, Ripon Christian's 21 and Riverbank's 24. Most of the Southern League's rosters are in the 20s. Ironman football!
Y is for youth, which will be served on several rosters throughout the district. Some teams going with a youth movement include Downey, Buhach Colony, Ceres and Linden.
Z is for Zero week games. Because the Central California Conference has seven teams, the section allows those teams to play games a week early, "Week Zero," instead of scrambling to find a game in their late bye week. The CCC went 3-1 last week.
Will DeBoard's high schools column appears Thursdays. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org, write him at P.O. Box 5256, Modesto, CA 95352-5256, call 578-2300 or fax 238-4551.