There are two ways a high school football coach can look at the non-league schedule for his team.
One, you can schedule three creampuffs, almost always leading to three easy wins and perhaps establishing confidence for your team as you head into the regular league season.
But does that really prepare your team for the task of playing in a league like the East Bay Athletic League, one of the tougher leagues in Northern California?
That thought leads to the second way to schedule non-league -- get three tough games, thus allowing for your team to be fully ready for the grind that is the EBAL.
For Amador Valley coach Danny Jones, the answer was easy -- the latter.
The Dons opened the season last Friday with a 30-22 win over an always-strong Antioch program on the road. Next up is a tough Milpitas team and then the Dons close the three-game, non-league campaign with a game against traditional power Campolindo.
"We schedule schools like Antioch because that's where we need to be, at their level," Jones said. "We have good kids -- resilient kids and we need those games to get ready."
For a first game of the season, Jones and his staff got just about everything you want out of a game to get ready for the league season.
First and foremost, there was the win against a quality and respected program, something that will look good on the Amador resume when the North Coast Section playoff seeding rolls around.
But it was how the Dons got the win that trumps everything else.
Antioch can be an intimidating place to play and the players found that out even walking on to the field.
Then Antioch came out and got the first score, taking a 6-0 lead. Amador answered right back with a big kickoff return from Eric Hunter III to take a 7-6 lead.
Amador moved that out to a 23-6 lead in the fourth quarter before Antioch rallied to cut it to 23-22 with six minutes to play in the game. Prime spot to fall apart for the Dons.
The players were cramping, and Jones had to use all his 55-player roster at the point. But as Jones pointed out, it's a resilient group.
Cal Ewanich came through with a 70-yard kickoff return for a score and the lead was up to 30-22.
"They kicked it away from Hunter, and Cal came up with the big play," the coach said.
From there Amador stopped Antioch on the next possession, got the ball back and ran out the clock. Adversity, perseverance and resiliency were all on display in the first week of the season.
"Our motto is we need all 55 kids," Jones said. "We had some guys go down, but others were there to step up."
While Amador was able to build a lead, then hold off a late surge, the same could not be said for Foothill.
In a "home" game held at crosstown rival Amador's stadium because of Foothill's field renovations, the Falcons looked solid building a 20-6 lead over San Leandro with six minutes left in the game. Then things went south in a hurry as the Pirates rallied to tie the game in the final minute of regulation before going on to score the lone touchdown in overtime for a 28-20 win.
It was a disheartening loss for Foothill as this was a game the Falcons should have won -- and honestly needed to win. A couple turnovers, coupled with the Foothill defense being unable to contain San Leandro quarterback DJ Bryant, was the ultimate undoing.
There were some signs for optimism for the Falcons, who are coming off a 2-8 season.
First there was the return of Pete Montini, the all-purpose star for Foothill. A threat both catching and running the ball, the senior missed last year with an injury and having him back opens the Foothill offense.
The return of Montini, who scored a pair of touchdowns, opened it up for players like Max Masajlo, Joshua Anderson, Jayden Payne and Justin Craven. That in turn helps quarterback Bryce Lombardi.
It was a tough loss to open the season, but the type of game that can give the Falcons optimism moving forward.