His team is a little smaller than in previous years and perhaps not as dominant on the offensive line. He doesn't have a breakaway threat in the backfield, either. Yet, Palo Alto High football coach Earl Hansen is conceding nothing this season.
In fact, the Vikings may have the potential to be even better than in 2009 when they went 4-0-2 and won the SCVAL De Anza Division title while reaching the CCS Open Division playoffs and finishing 7-2-2 overall.
A lot of things have to happen, of course, starting with a victory over host Burlingame on Friday night (7 p.m.) to start the season.
"We are really ready for a game," Hansen said.
Palo Alto returns eight offensive starters and five on the defensive side. The key returnee, however, is senior Christoph Bono, who missed six games with shoulder injury after leading the Vikings to a 4-1 start while throwing for 1,087 yards and 14 touchdowns.
Bono has three talented receivers to throw to again this season in seniors T.J. Braff, Maurice Williams and Davante Adams. All three are dangerous in their own way and should help open up the running game, which features five interchangeable backs.
Senior two-way lineman Kevin Anderson (6-4, 245) is already headed for Stanford and should be a key player for the Vikings, along with fellow two-way players Michael Cullen, Will Glazier and Morris Gates-Mouton -- all of whom are linebackers and running backs.
With Bono healthy and ready to lead once again, the Vikings are poised to get off to a solid start. That would not only do wonders for Bono, but for the Vikings as a team -- especially with a showdown against highly ranked Mitty looming the following Friday.
In other nonleague football games this Saturday:
Priory will open its season by visiting Alma Heights in Pacifica at 1 p.m.; Menlo-Atherton (0-1) will host Los Gatos at 2 p.m.; Sacred Heart Prep (1-0) will host Riordan at 3 p.m., and Menlo School (0-1) will take on Carmel at Woodside High (7 p.m.) in a rematch of last season's CCS Small School Division title game.
Girls' water polo
The annual St. Francis Fall Invitational gets under way Friday with five local teams competing.
At St. Francis (Mountain View), Palo Alto (0-1) will open against the host Lancers on Friday at 1 p.m. The Vikings dropped an 11-6 opener to Campolindo a week ago. Menlo-Atherton will open its season against Aragon at 1:50 p.m., with Castilleja (2-0) taking on Burlingame at 2:40 p.m. The Gators are off to a good start under first-year coach Brenda Villa, a three-time USA Olympian.
Sacred Heart Prep will open its season Friday by hosting the other half of the bracket. The Gators will face Leland at 1 p.m. Menlo will take on Davis for the second time this week in the 1:50 p.m. game.
The championship match will be played Saturday at St. Francis at 5:50 p.m., preceded by the consolation finals at 5 p.m.