BERKELEY -- A team that loses players the caliber of quarterback Kevin Flemer and wide receiver Caleb Coleman might be expected to slip a little, at least at the start of the season.
No so at St. Mary's High School.
The Panthers always expect to contend for league championships and playoff berths.
"It's about winning in December and November," fifth-year coach Keith Minor said. "Success for us is winning in the playoffs and doing well. Every year we've been here, we've made the playoffs and last year we won in the playoffs for the first time."
Indeed the Panthers did, beating Middletown 36-23 in the first round of the North Coast Section Division IV playoffs. The next round, St. Mary's ran into a buzzsaw in Justin-Siena-Napa and fell 48-14. Justin-Siena was the top seed and ended up winning the championship.
So, despite some key losses, the Panthers expect not only to maintain high-quality play, they expect to improve.
"We're got some talented kids and we're young," Minor said. "We think we're going to be real good. We had a successful JV team last year. We have a good group of receivers. We have a real good quarterback. And our running back corps is pretty good."
Last year's backup Ian Bonde takes over at quarterback. The 6-foot-3, 170-pound senior is very athletic, according to Minor.
"He has good command of the ball," Minor said. "He extends plays extremely well. He's an exciting kid, he plays hard. He's an intelligent kid."
The key for Bonde will be the development of his offensive line, which will start three sophomores and two juniors.
"We're really young on the offensive line," Minor said. "We know that it starts in the trenches both offensively and defensively. We have good players there but that's going to be the key to us. It takes a long time for it to gel there.
"We were fortunate in the past here, we had kids who were two-, three-year starters. That's not the case here this year."
Returning senior Lorenzo Logwood (5-10, 195) will be the top running back. Minor called him, "our bell cow. He's a sturdy guy, he finishes extremely well, he has great hands."
Senior Liam Godfrey returns at wide receiver. The 6-0, 175 Godfrey is a hybrid, according to Minor.
"He's a big guy, catches the ball inside well," Minor said. "He's very elusive. He has a knack for making big plays."
The defense should be strong. Ben Schrider and Peter Sekona return on the defensive line with linebacker Aaron Mercadel back as well. Coming up from the junior varsity is free safety Ron Smith, a 6-0, 150-pound junior who should be among the area's interception leaders.
Minor said competing for the Tri-County Athletic League-Rock Division title should prepare the Panthers for the NCS playoffs.
"People don't give our league the credit it deserves," he said. "We think we're in one of the best leagues on this side of the tunnel."
9/6 at Miramonte 7 p.m.
9/14 RIORDAN-S.F. 1:30 p.m.
9/20 at Albany 7 p.m.
9/28 DE ANZA 1:30 p.m.
10/5 BEREAN CHR.*. 1:30 p.m.
10/11 Valley Chr.@ 7 p.m.
10/19 at Salesian* 1:30 p.m.
10/26 ST. PATRICK-S.V.* 1:30 p.m.
11/2 El Cerrito*# 7 p.m.
11/9 PINOLE VALLEY* 7 p.m.
@ -- at Chabot College
#-- at De Anza