Kids growing up in Palo Alto in 2010 when the Palo Alto High football team won a state championship didn't have to go far to find their heroes.
"Kevin Anderson was my neighbor," said Peter Snodgrass, a standout center and linebacker on the current team. "So was Will Glazier, the other linebacker. I looked up to those guys. I'd do anything to bring it back."
And there you have the theme for the 2016 Paly football team: bringing back the glory.
What that 2010 team accomplished was truly incredible. The Vikings went 14-0, knocked off Mitty, Bellarmine and Valley Christian in the Central Coast Section playoffs and then beat a heavily favored Centennial of Corona team in the state final, 15-13.
That team remains the only team from the CCS, public or private, to win a state football championship.
Paly went 10-3 and 6-6 the next two years in the final two years of Earl Hansen's tenure as coach. Then it was 3-8 and 5-7 the last two years under Jake Halas.
Needless to say, expectations are not very high for the current team.
"We're a lot better," said running back Paul Jackson III, who rushed for 1,032 yards last season as a sophomore. "A lot of us are hungry to prove everyone wrong. People think Palo Alto football is over, that we're done. That motivates us every day."
Danny Sullivan takes over as head coach. Sullivan is a former standout quarterback at Los Gatos who went on to start at Arizona State. He then returned to Los Gatos and began his coaching career in that successful program as an assistant under Butch Cattolico and Mark Krail.
"I'm a grinder,'' Sullivan said. "Getting ready for Friday night, there's nothing like it. I'm not going to shy away from saying what I think, not going to shy away from any challenge."
He brings in what he terms "a melting pot offense."
"A lot of pro set, some wing-T stuff,'' Sullivan said. "We'll do some single back and some I back."
But of greater importance than any changes to X's and O's is an installation of attitude.
"Coming from Los Gatos and playing at the Division I level I'm not used to losing," Sullivan said. "Winning is contagious and losing can be equally contagious."
Much of the team's offense will revolve around Jackson, a 1,000-yard rusher as a sophomore.
"He runs the ball aggressively," Sullivan said. "He's quick enough to make cuts and get up field. He's got some power and the speed to go with it."
The offensive line is a strength. Snodgrass, a three-year starter, anchors the unit at center.
Senior guards Sean Romeo and Troy Henderson wIII line up on either side of Snodgrass, giving the Vikings an experienced interior line. Juniors Ervin Brown-Alexander (6-5, 237) and Joe Reynolds (6-5, 225) provide some size at tackle.
Sione Latu and Wes Walters will block for Jackson at fullback.
"Our whole mentality is different,'' Snodgrass said. "There are no lackadaisical attitudes, Practices are shorter but high intensity. We have one of the top running backs in the CCS. Every day he keeps getting better."
Senior Jordan Schilling and sophomore Jackson Chryst are competing for the starting job at quarterback. Schilling provides experience and mobility and is also a starter at free safety. Chryst, the younger brother of former Paly star Keller Chryst, who is now at Stanford, has size and a strong arm, but little in the way of experience.
The receiving core is young. Jackson Hall and David Chernyak are the leading candidates to start at wideout.
Alec Cohen-Schisler has made an impression with his play in practice on the defensive line.
"He is a real force," Sullivan said. "He will cause issues for offenses."
Linebacker Christian Rider and strong safety Jamie Cullen have also stood out defensively in preseason practice.
Sullivan said he was pleased with the progress he's seen.
"I think they're starting to buy in," Sullivan said. "Do we want a winning record? Of course. There's a culture we need to be successful. Being on time and being accountable."
Palo Alto opens Friday, Aug. 26 at home at 7 p.m. against Patterson, an 11-1 team a year ago.