BFL

The Bay Football League may be the smallest league in the East Bay, with all four teams in Division V, but it should still hold some drama.

California School for the Deaf is coming off a 4-6 season but does return eight starters on both sides of the ball, including senior Zane Pedersen at quarterback. Emery had its best season in recent memory in 2013, going 7-4 as it made the North Coast Section Division V playoffs. The Spartans have a strong junior class, led by receiver Elijah Lucy.

Stellar Prep's roster is small, but the Thunder does have star power. Quarterback Cameron Burston is a San Jose State commit, cornerback Chandler Gumbs has an offer from Colorado State and receiver Darrell Adams has offers from Arizona State and Utah.

Livermore Valley Charter Prep has several players back from a 1-7 season, including receivers Miguel Echeverria and Havi Machani, and should make strides this year.

Predicted champion: California School for the Deaf

-- Curtis Pashelka

BVAL

The Bay Valley Athletic League will be led by defending champion Pittsburg, but this appears to be a league on the rise. Liberty, Heritage and Antioch all expect to be improved, which should make for an entertaining title chase.

The Pirates have a rebuilt offensive line, an experienced defensive line and some highly regarded talent. Freedom has big plans in the post-Joe Mixon era, with an experienced front line and a polished quarterback in Joe Sweeney. Sean Pinson, a transfer from Colorado, bolsters the run game.


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Deer Valley is rebuilding after a scintillating run to the NCS Division I semifinals in 2013, but Liberty looks to take another step under second-year coach Jeff Walters. Everyone expects Antioch to make a big jump with a young, talented cast.

Heritage, which lost four BVAL games last year by a combined 28 points, is another team not to be overlooked.

Predicted champion: Pittsburg

-- Matt Schwab

DFAL

Easy games are few and far between in the Diablo Foothill Athletic League, but that hasn't stopped Campolindo from putting together a fantastic three-year run.

The Cougars haven't lost a league game since 2010, and while they lack experience in the passing game, the defense is loaded with eight starters back from last year's stout unit.

Miramonte won last season's NCS Division II title but is in rebuilding mode after losing a stellar senior class.

Dublin could be in line for a big improvement after a disappointing 2013. The Gaels return more experience than anyone in the league and have added former NFL star Keith Millard as defensive coordinator.

Las Lomas and Acalanes, coming off solid years, both return their starting quarterback and each has a Pac-12 commit to anchor the offensive line.

Dougherty Valley enters its eighth season and continues to make strides. Alhambra coach Alan Hern is optimistic that his squad can emerge from its three-year funk.

Predicted champion: Campolindo

-- Stephanie Hammon

DVAL

Since 2012, when Clayton Valley became a charter school and Tim Murphy took over the program, the Eagles have soared in Diablo Valley Athletic League competition and beyond.

An Eagles team big in size and numbers looks capable of claiming a third straight DVAL championship.

Miles Harrison, who rushed for more than 2,000 yards and 34 TDs, and reigning DVAL co-MVP Jax Carter both return.

The Eagles also may be bolstered by six transfers -- including five-star defensive lineman Kahlil McKenzie from De La Salle -- though their eligibility was still pending.

But don't count out Concord, which returns 18 starters from a team that went 8-4 and pushed Clayton Valley Charter to the brink. The Minutemen are looking for improvement on defense, but their offense should be prolific.

Northgate has a new head coach in Ben Ballard, who was the Broncos' defensive coordinator when they won 19 games over the past two seasons. He'll be inheriting a fairly young squad.

College Park typically fields competitive teams under veteran coach Bill Kepler, and Ygnacio Valley and Mt. Diablo are both looking for improvement after some lean years.

Predicted champion: Clayton Valley Charter

-- Stephanie Hammon

EBAL

California, the defending East Bay Athletic League champions, looks to extend its rule with an experienced secondary and another solid group of running backs. But it won't be easy.

San Ramon Valley should contend again in the post-Marcus de la Pena era under new coach Aaron Becker, its former offensive coordinator. The Wolves and Grizzlies shared the EBAL title in 2012.

Foothill has first-rate talent and experience at the skill positions but is unproven on the lines. Amador Valley advanced to the NCS playoffs with a junior-laden squad in 2013 and could be sitting on a big season.

Granada is coming off a solid campaign in which it advanced to the playoffs for the first time since 2010 and beat Amador Valley in the first round.

Young Monte Vista looks for steady improvement under veteran coach Craig Bergman. Livermore is inexperienced but has some exciting playmakers.

Predicted champion: California

-- Matt Schwab

Independents

De La Salle: The movie "When the Game Stands Tall" has the Spartans in the spotlight, but it should be business as usual for the perennial state title contenders.

Though a grueling schedule that includes games with Servite-Anaheim, Byrnes (S.C.), Serra-San Mateo and Del Oro-Loomis lies ahead, De La Salle has been motivated in the offseason after ending 2013 with a rare loss.

"It drives us every single day," senior Simba Short said of the 20-14 loss to St. John Bosco-Bellflower in the Open Division state title game. "We're always thinking about it."

The Spartans' running game is in good hands with Antoine Custer, Andrew Hernandez and Jevari Anderson sharing the load. Drew Sullivan anchors the offensive line.

New quarterback Anthony Sweeney drew positive reviews from coaches over the summer, though his availability early in the season is in question after suffering a knee injury in a recent scrimmage.

The defense returns stalwarts Boss Tagaloa, Cameron Lissarrague and Devin Asiasi, among others.

-- Stephanie Hammon

James Logan: This season, UC Davis commit Christian Leota is the center of the Colts offense. The 6-foot-3 senior quarterback is a threat both with his arm and his legs.

"We are definitely going to utilize his arm more. He is a great runner, so he will run the ball a decent amount as well," Logan coach George Zuber said.

Ahmari Davis, a fast junior, is another weapon in the Colts' backfield. He also leads the Logan secondary.

Zuber said a team strength is the defense, even though there are not many returners. The Colts could see improvement as a team as the season progresses.

"We do have a lack of varsity experience, and that's what we have to overcome," Zuber said. "I feel they are ready to step up to this level."

-- Phil Jensen

MVAL

The Mission Valley Athletic League title looks to be up for grabs, with as many as three teams in the mix to unseat defending champion Washington.

The Huskies will have a different look on offense after losing their quarterback, top running back and three starting receivers, but will be considered one of the favorites.

"We have another tough nonleague schedule so that should pay dividends once league starts for us," Washington coach Ken Wittmer said.

Newark Memorial has a good nucleus back on the offensive and defensive lines, but lack experience in the skill positions. Moreau Catholic was dealt a blow when star running back Jason Hinton had ACL surgery in the spring, and he isn't expected back until the middle of the season.

Predicted champion: Washington

-- Tony Gonsalez, correspondent

OAL

Will it be more of the same in the Oakland Athletic League?

McClymonds hasn't lost in OAL play since the final game of the 2009 season. Since then, the Warriors have won 20 consecutive league games, four consecutive regular-season championships and four Silver Bowls.

Kevin Davidson, a transfer from San Ramon Valley, will take over at quarterback. According to McClymonds coach Michael Peters, "He brings the passing game that we didn't have last year."

Skyline figures to be the most likely team to reach the Silver Bowl against McClymonds this year. The Titans have experience on the line, which should give them an advantage over most of the league.

Last year, Skyline played a brutal nonleague schedule, including St. Francis-Mountain View and Amador Valley. This year's schedule is equally tough. If the Titans stay healthy by the time they get to league, they are the second choice.

Predicted champion: McClymonds

-- Damin Esper, correspondent

TCAL-Rock

The Tri-County Athletic League's Rock Division is coming off a remarkable 2013 season that saw three of its teams win NCS titles.

Does any of that change the division's hierarchy? Possibly.

El Cerrito could very well win a third straight division crown, but its path probably won't be quite as smooth.

The Gauchos, who graduated a remarkable senior class that led the team to a 6-0 record in league play and the NCS Division III title in 2013, still have plenty of talent. They just lack experience.

Perhaps the biggest threat to El Cerrito's division dominance is St. Mary's, which returns 18 starters, including 10 on defense.

Salesian should also be competitive in the division, as its defense figures to be well ahead of where it was at this time last year. The key for small-school teams such as Salesian, Valley Christian and St. Patrick-St. Vincent will be staying healthy.

Pinole Valley figures to be improved but perhaps not enough to challenge for the league crown.

Predicted champion: St. Mary's

-- Curtis Pashelka

TCAL-Stone

Kennedy-Richmond came within a whisker of winning the TCAL-Stone Division title last year, losing 34-33 to Hercules on a late fourth quarter touchdown. Understandably, the Eagles don't want to leave anything to chance this season.

Kennedy has six returning starters on offense, including running back Ernie Timoteo, who looks like an early favorite to win division MVP honors.

Albany's strengths will be its offensive and defensive lines, with all-league honorable mention players Marco Lazares and Karma Gangshar back for their senior seasons.

With Hercules going to the Rock Division, Berean Christian moves to the Stone Division looking for a fresh start.

John Swett is young, with 20 of its 26 players being juniors, but should make strides after a 3-7 campaign. Richmond and De Anza also look improved, but it'll take more time for either team to contend for a division crown.

Predicted champion: Kennedy-Richmond

-- Curtis Pashelka

WACC-Foothill

San Leandro, led by 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.

Castro Valley has starters returning at eight positions, including Namane Modise on both offense and defense. A young Berkeley team has depth at running back.

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.

Predicted champion: San Leandro

-- Phil Jensen

WACC-Shoreline

With two-time defending champion Tennyson moving out of the WACC-Shoreline Division, a new champion will be crowned. The question is, which team will step up?

"I can't say there is a favorite. I really believe it is wide open," said San Lorenzo coach John Trotman Jr.

Piedmont's offense is led by junior running back Gabe Watson, who rushed for more than 1,000 yards last season. San Lorenzo quarterback Kevin Mosi has started since his sophomore season.

Mt. Eden has seven returning starters on both offense and defense, including dynamic Dominic Williams. Hayward will be aiming to achieve a turnaround season with a large number of returning starters.

A young Arroyo squad is also looking for a turnaround season. Alameda has experience on the offensive line and depth at running back.

Predicted champion: Piedmont

-- Phil Jensen