The components of a quality football team are all in place at San Ramon Valley High -- senior leadership, size, speed, confidence, depth, and a marquee quarterback.
Throw in an unmistakable bond, and the Wolves look ready for a serious pack hunt.
"This is a special team. You can tell it already," said receiver Patrick Worstell, who has orally committed to Syracuse on a lacrosse scholarship.
"I feel really confident about this team," said tight end/defensive lineman Sean Miller, a Division I prospect at 6-foot-3, 215 pounds.
Now, it's up to the Wolves to make it happen on the field.
"We're going to try and (go) 10-0 and win NCS, that's our goal," said quarterback Zach Kline, a Cal commit. "That's every team's goal. We got a long way to go, but this team has the talent and has the drive to get there."
San Ramon Valley suffered some growing pains last season. It was just 2-5 in the EBAL before advancing to the North Coast Section Division I semifinals and falling to California 24-7. The Wolves showed potential throughout the postseason, beating Deer Valley and Monte Vista in the first two rounds.
Now the juniors of 2010 have grown up. The shoulders look broader, and coach Mark Kessler's system is a bit less of a puzzle.
"This team just is so much further ahead," Kline said. "They really know what they're doing. There's less guys asking me what to do or asking the coaches what to do. We know our assignments. It's good to know."
There's also a spirited competition at quarterback. Junior newcomer Cameron Birse has been pushing Kline in practice.
Of Birse, Kessler said, "We've known he was going to be good. He's 6-3. He's The Next."
No matter who's behind center, the Wolves expect to move the ball.
"I think our offense is going to be good, very good," Miller said. "Just overall we're a very athletic team. We have a couple of big guys, but our speed is what's going to kill other teams."
After the Wolves' playoff loss to California last season, Kessler spoke of the Grizzlies' size advantage.
"Maybe this year the shoe's on the other foot," Kessler said. "I think we've also grown athletically. We have more athletes in more positions this year."
Speaking to the team's unity, Worstell described the Wolves as like a bunch of "best friends."
"Everyone wants to win," he said. "Everyone has the same goal: Winning the championship. We're in it to win it."
Worstell and fellow lacrosse stars Michael Tagliaferri, a wide receiver/defensive back, and Jordan Weiss, a running back/linebacker, are key returners along with Brendan Clancy, another running back/linebacker.
Hulking two-way linemen Jake Simonich (6-6, 270), who sat out practice with a foot injury last Monday, and Matt Fisher (6-4, 255) are Division I football recruits.
Newcomers Felipe Parra, tight end Ryan Dunn, Matt Turner, and Justin Bangay bolster the receiving corps.
Even with all their strengths, the Wolves are not lost on the challenge ahead.
"In the EBAL every team is kind of 'the team to beat'," Worstell said. "We want to be that team this year and take it to the top, but every game in EBAL is a tough game."
Sept. 3 FOLSOM (at DVC) 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 9 vs. Mitty (at FH Col.) 7 p.m.
Sept. 23 at Washington 7 p.m.
Sept. 30 AMADOR VALLEY* 7 p.m.
Oct. 7 at Granada* 7 p.m.
Oct. 14 at California* 7 p.m.
Oct. 21 FOOTHILL* 7 p.m.
Oct. 28 at De La Salle* 7 p.m.
Nov. 4 LIVERMORE* 7 p.m.
Nov. 11 MONTE VISTA* 7 p.m.