The Berkeley High football team didn't allow more than 14 points to a West Alameda County Conference-Foothill Division opponent last season on the way to an undefeated divsion record.
That defensive efficiency could be the same this season. Berkeley, which will be guided by former Arroyo coach James Barnes, has a couple of outstanding linebackers in Michael Lazarus and Marlon Walker to lead that group. The 6-foot-2, 215-pound Lazarus, a three-star inside linebacker according to Rivals.com, is one of the top inside linebackers in the state. Walker was named the WACC-Foothill Defensive Player of the Year last season.
Castro Valley's wing-T could again cause havoc in the division this season, led by running back Demareyeh Lane. Encinal, which won three of its last four games in 2012, has its starting quarterback returning in Taivale Tautalatasi.
Here's a team-by-team look at the division:
COACH: James Barnes, first season
2012 RECORD: 5-5, 5-0 WACC-Foothill
TOP RETURNEES: OLB/TE Mike Lazarus, Sr.; MLB/RB Marlon Walker, Sr.; QB/FS Lamont Smith, Sr.; WR/DB Travis Dennis, Sr. WR/DB Jakari Simpson, Sr.; OL/DL Jordan Carroll, Sr.; WR/DB Yamvo Teague, Sr.; RB John Adams, Sr.; LB/RB Hiram Hairston, Sr.
TOP NEWCOMERS: OG Marcos Gutierrez, Jr.; LB/FB Emaji Roos, Jr.; TT Henry Bazakas, Jr.; QB Noah Suszckiwicz, Jr.
KEY LOSSES: WR/DB/KR Akil Bordelon, TE/DE Xavier Nelson, K/P Sam Boyden, OL/DL Deandre Diggs-Ray, DB Marcello Thomas, TE/LB Akil Stewart, WR/DB Marquise Garcia, OL/DL Ashton Smith
OUTLOOK: The Yellowjackets have a returning first-team all-league quarterback in Smith, one of five offensive returning starters. Curtis McCauley, who led McClymonds to three straight Oakland Athletic League and Silver Bowl titles in his four years as head coach at the school, is the new Berkeley defensive coordinator.
COACH: Hardy Nickerson, fourth season
2012 RECORD: 7-5, 2-3
TOP RETURNEES: MLB/TE Alex Holme, Sr.; OG/DE Julian Soto, Sr.; OLB Del Lyles, Sr.; QB Chris Hagmaier, Jr.; WR/DB Bakari Ziegler, Sr.; RB/DB Bryce Grandison, Jr.
TOP NEWCOMERS: RB/DB Ricky Walker, So.; LB Camilo Eifler, So.
KEY LOSSES: WR/DB/QB Kevin King, QB Dom Miroglio, WR/CB Wayne Thomas, WR/DB Dominic Gomes, RB/OLB Isaiah Johnson, LT Shaka Kendricks, DE/OL Elliot Brue, NT Josh Licup
OUTLOOK: The Dragons have only returning starters at five positions, but one of them is Hagmaier, who started two games as a sophomore. Grandison also rushed for 111 yards agaisnt Arroyo last season as a sophomore. Holme, Soto and Lyles are an imposing trio defensively. "We are young and the kids love football and they are competitors," Nickerson said.
COACH: Nic McMaster, fifth season
2012 RECORD: 5-6, 3-2
TOP RETURNEES: DE/OG Andrew Vonderheid, Sr.; C/DT Matt Marsh, Sr.; OT/DT Anant Tikku, Sr.; RB/LB Nick Alfaro, Sr.; RB/LB Demareyeh Lane, Sr.
TOP NEWCOMERS: RB/DB Namane Modise, Jr.; WR/DB Gabe Tramble, Sr.; OL/DL Dimitrious Monzon, Jr.; RB/LB/FS C.J. Edwards, Jr.
KEY LOSSES: QB/DB Luke Huerta, RB/DB Patrick Cheek, OT/DL Joey Tognolini, LB/OL Nick Lerschen, TE/DE Ben Atkinson, RB/DB/K/P Nick Lima; OL/LB Joey Ekholm, TE/DT Trevor Trammell, OL/DL Hunter Huffaker
OUTLOOK: The wing-T is now well established at Castro Valley, and Lane and Alfaro are dangerous in the formation. Lane produced 173 yards against San Leandro and 172 yards against California; Alfaro had 130 yards against Bishop O'Dowd. However, another weapon from last year, running back/defensive back Robert Taylor, has transferred to Deer Valley according to McMaster.
COACH: Joe Tenorio, eighth season
2012 RECORD: 7-6, 2-3
TOP RETURNEES: QB/LB Taivale Tautalatasi, Jr.; RB/CB Jordan Parker, So.; OLB/FB Austin Ve'e, Sr. RB/SS Isaiah Hunter, Sr.; RB/FS Tyrell Carrigan, Sr.; ILB/TE Kealii Pedro, Sr.; ILB/RB Carlos McClure, So.; C Ken Horton, Sr.; LT/NT Kapena Kahuanui, Sr.; LG Matt Ferrer, Sr.; RT/DT D'Quan Williams, Sr.
TOP NEWCOMERS: DT Elijah Wilson, Sr.; ILB/QB Isaac Tapia, Jr.; RG Daveon Dawkins, So.
KEY LOSSES: OT/DT Aaron Ve'e, RB/FS Corey Sails, ILB/RB Abraham Hill
OUTLOOK: Tautalatasi has been impressive this preseason, and he will have a number of weapons in the running game in Parker, Hunter and Carrigan. Wilson and Ve'e are a pair of talented defensive players for the Jets. "Last year was so much about going out there and learning how to play varsity football," said Tenorio, who had three freshmen play on varsity last year. "This year, I want results."
COACH: Justin Redemer, third season
2012 RECORD: 4-6, 2-3
TOP RETURNEES: QB/S Marjani Ellison, Sr.; DT/OL Dartise Jones, Sr.; RB/DE Jordan Alonzo Sr.; DE/OL Rodrigo Otormin, Sr.; OL/DL Tevita Lolohea, Sr.; LB/FB Anaua Fanau, Jr.; RB/LB Tresean Mitchell, Sr.
TOP NEWCOMERS: WR/CB Amari Evans, Sr.; OL/DE Alex Lopez, Sr.; RT Teddy Porter, Jr.; SS/WR David White, Jr.; RB/LB Dakarai Collington, Jr.; TE/DE Seperini Togiai, So.
KEY LOSSES: QB/MLB Thompson Pulu, RB/SS/LB Sam Mahe, RB/CB Dana Carter, LB/TE Paul Mateialona, RB/CB/KR Kyle Foote, OL/RT Misieli Ohuafi, WR/DB Chris Scott, OG/DT Casey Meafou
OUTLOOK: The 6-foot-5 Ellison is both a passing and running weapon. Alonzo and Jones lead a talented defensive line. "I think we will all be competitive." said Redemer about the league race. "I think there is a parity in our league to the extent that there are no gimmees."
COACH: Brad Bowers, 11th season
2012 RECORD: 1-9, 1-4
TOP RETURNEES: QB/DB Stephen Johnson, Jr. RB/SS Finau Mataafa, Sr.; OL/DL Demytrick Aliifua, Sr.; WR/FS Reuben Baker, Jr.; RB/OLB Ruben Garcia-Ceja, Sr.; OL/DL Malik Leblanc, Sr.; TE/OLB Keone Foumai, Sr.; RB/LB Bryson Lesure, Sr.; RB/SS Jesse Arreola, Sr.; RB/DE/LB O'Brien Younger, Jr.
TOP NEWCOMERS: RB/LB Sonny Sowles, Sr.; TE/DL Leki Fotu, So.; OL/LB Tori Leota, So.; OL/LB David Fields, Jr.; WR/DB Troy Hearne, Jr.; RB/LB Diego Rojas, Sr.; C/DL Art Sabisor, Jr.
KEY LOSSES: OL/DL Anthony Fotu, QB Jose Ferreira, WR/DB Dream Greene, RB/DB Christian Carter, WR/LB Fa'afetai Leuelu, RB/LB Randy Bell, RB/DB Robert Aledo, RB/LB Hyakub Herring, WR/DB DeAndre Johnson, OL/LB Deon Barron
OUTLOOK: The offensive line, led by returning first-team all-divison guard Aliifua, will be a strength for the Pirates. Defensively, San Leandro returns first-team all-division defensive back Mataafa. Johnson has been a starter at quarterback for part of the past two seasons. "I'd like to see us get back to the traditions of San Leandro -- being in the playoffs, getting into the championship games ... and just strong, physical, aggressive play," Bowers said.