Last year, Newark Memorial had only six returners entering the season, but rolled through an undefeated Mission Valley Athletic League campaign.
This year, the Cougars have seven returning starters -- on each side of the ball. That includes Fred Tidwell and Marty Leggett, who were first-team all-MVAL picks last season at wide receiver and defensive back respectively.
But new coach Ralph Meredith isn't about to forecast a title.
"I think it will come down to who stays healthy. It will be a good race," he said.
Washington is a senior-dominated team that will aim to control the line of scrimmage. Moreau Catholic is led by Jason Hinton, the returning MVAL Offensive Most Valuable Player last season as a sophomore. "His biggest asset is that he has top-end speed," Moreau Catholic coach Andrew Cotter said.
American has 14 returning starters, including four on the offensive line.
Here's a team-by-team look at the league:
COACH: Bret Casey, third season
2012 RECORD: 5-6, 2-4 MVAL
TOP RETURNEES: G/DT Kelvin Pellom, Sr.; OT/DT Nate Berry, Sr.; RB Drew Lyell, Sr.; QB Ryan Barker, Sr.; LG/DE Andrew Simon, Sr.; MLB/FB Nazif Popal, Sr.; SS/WR Anthony Wellington, Jr.; WR/DB Deangelo Cox, Jr.
TOP NEWCOMERS: QB/FS Marcus Mayfield, Sr.; FB/LB Trevon Jones, So.; S/RB Jared Luty, So.
KEY LOSSES: C/DE D.J. Kay, RB/FS Eric Adair, OL/DL Sohail Naderpour, RB/DB/KR Robert Pinkney
OUTLOOK: In addition to its four offensive line starters, the Eagles have three starters back on the defensive line. They have a three-year starter at quarterback in Barker, but he will be pushed by Mayfield.
COACH: Zach Silvernale, fourth season
2012 RECORD: 4-7, 2-4
TOP RETURNEES: QB/CB Jack Shank, Sr.; MLB/RT Eben Hercik, Sr.. ILB/FB Randon Navarro, Sr.; RB/DB Chauncey Jones, Sr.; RG/DL Mamoud Eldesouky, Sr.; DE Keith Thomas, Sr.; TE/LB Danil Gusev, Sr.; RB/DB Jared Lozoya, Sr.; OLB Andre Vickers, Sr.
TOP NEWCOMERS: DE/TE Stephen Hanna, Sr.; C/LB Diego Lerma, So.; LT Taylor Karney, Jr.
KEY LOSSES: RB/SS Ariel Hercik, C/LB Ernie Baung, LT Manny Abarado, LG Felipe Santana
OUTLOOK: The Vikings have 27 seniors, including returning first-team all-MVAL quarterback Shank, who will also play cornerback this season. "We have a lot of leaders," Silvernale said. "It's very evident going through practice and meeting adversity. They don't look around to see who is going take charge; they just do."
John F. Kennedy
COACH: Dave Damewood, second season
2012 RECORD: 4-7, 3-3
TOP RETURNEES: OG/LB/DL Ben Loya, Sr.; LB/DB/RB/QB Waymond McKissick, Sr.; RB/TE/LB Jacob Murrieta, Jr.; DL/OL Thomas Nagel, Sr.; RB/LB Derek Slater, Sr.
TOP NEWCOMERS: QB/LB Justin Binderup, Jr.; RB/DB Kaleem Abubakari. Jr.; OL/DL George Vehikite, Jr.
KEY LOSSES: OLB/OL Brandon McCuin, RB/DB Joel Romero, OG/DL DeAndre Hollie, QB Justin Staley
OUTLOOK: The key word for the Titans this season may be "flexible". Players may be moving positions depending on the opponent. "They really started to come together and do things as a group," said Damewood about his team's strength. "They are really buying into the team concept. It is a good group to be around."
Mission San Jose
COACH: Sam Baugh, second season
2012 RECORD: 1-9, 0-6
TOP RETURNEES: WR/SS Ryan Walleman, Sr.; RB/LB Ben Torrez, Sr.; QB Tamin Sarwary, Sr.
TOP NEWCOMERS: TE/LB Michael Pyle, So.
KEY LOSSES: RB/CB/KR Ishmail Shafi, OG/DL Shane Keenan, DE/OG Jigar Desai, TE/OLB James Gao,. ILB/K Eric Gonzalez
OUTLOOK: A young Warriors team has seven returning starters that play on both sides of the ball. They have a returning starting quarterback in the 6-1, 180-pound Sarwary. Mission San Jose, which has not won a league game since 2005, will look to its lines to lead it.
COACH: Andrew Cotter, sixth season
2012 RECORD: 5-6, 3-3 MVAL
TOP RETURNEES: RB/DB/KR/PR Jason Hinton, Jr.; OL/DL Grayson Granzella, Sr.; LB/RB Chris Garcia, Sr.; LB/TE Rian Goulart, Sr.
OL/DL Daniel Loza, Sr.; TE/LB Anthony Bailey, Jr.; WR/DB J.C. Maroun, Sr.; TE/LB Jimmy Shreckengost. Sr.; DE/OL Chandler Witham, Sr.
TOP NEWCOMERS: RB/DB/KR/PR Booda Ison, Fr.; DL/TE Hadari Darden, So.; RB/DL Johnny Den Bleyker, So.; OL/DL Jack Alcott, Jr.; WR/DB Dom Fiandor, So.; RB/DB Dylan Mackin, Jr.; WR/LB Gerald Robinson, Jr.
KEY LOSSES: QB/LB Nick Kinast, C/DL Gabe Schrag, OL/DL Kelsen Adeni, WR/DB Gabe Villarreal
OUTLOOK: The Mariners have perhaps the league's biggest offensive weapon in Hinton and a deep roster. Quarterback Lucas O'Rourke "has all the qualities of a true leader," Cotter said. Robinson is emerging as the team's top receiver, and Loza anchors the offensive line. Freshman Ison is a hard hitter at defensive back.
COACH: Ralph Meredith, first season
2012 RECORD: 9-3, 6-0
TOP RETURNEES: NG/C Chance Urbi, Sr.; WR/DB/KR Fred Tidwell, Sr.; RB/SS Marty Leggett, Sr.; QB Reggie Moccolie, Sr.; DL/OL King Slocum, Jr.; OG/LB Anthony Garcia, Sr.; WR/DB John Kapu, Sr.; OLB/FB Franco Napal, Sr.
TOP NEWCOMERS: C/MLB Thor Thornestein , Jr.; OG/LB Nicholas Poole, Jr.
KEY LOSSES: DE/TE John Tai, MLB/FB Pedro Rivas, RB/SS Mark Morton, QB Riley Pivin, WR/DB Robert Ramirez, OG Tim Hutchins; C/DL Donovan Mosier
OUTLOOK: The Cougars have many skilled players returning such as Leggett, who should see a lot of carries this season. Defensively the Cougars have a new middle linebacker in Thornestein. Newark Memorial has three new assistant coaches and have made some changes on both sides of the ball.
COACH: Ken Wittmer, ninth season
2012 RECORD: 6-5, 5-1 MVAL
TOP RETURNEES: QB Tylan Binson, Sr.; RB/SS Nate Woudstra, Sr.; WR/CB Terrance Jones, Sr.; OT/DT Zach Dushen, Sr.; OG/DT Michael Macabitas, Sr.; OG/DT Colton McCoy, Sr.; C/DT Erik Kabigting, Jr.
TOP NEWCOMERS: DB/RB Mark Colbert, So.; DT/OT Jalen Peats, So.
KEY LOSSES: QB Kyle Malpede, WR/DB Andrew Llanos, OL/DL Jordan Mocny
OUTLOOK: The Huskies will have a new quarterback for the third year in a row in Binson. The 6-foot-5, 270-pound Peats joins first-team all-leaguer Michael Macabitas on the offensive line. Wittmer said that the team's biggest question marks are if it can play strong defense against the run and run the ball offensively.