It may be only four-plus months on the calendar, but it seems like it's been two years since there has been a true high school football game.
There was an abbreviated schedule of games in the spring, but there was limited attendance due to COVID-19 protocols. Only four family members per player could attend the games, with no students, bands or cheerleaders allowed.
This week, Friday Night Lights return!
Amador Valley opens at Milpitas, with Foothill starting out at home against Castro Valley. Both games start at 7 p.m.
Once again, the East Bay Athletic League is split into two divisions. The Mountain Division features the top six teams based on recent competitive balance. The Valley Division features the lower-ranked teams.
The league will be readjusted after two years.
There are two champions crowned and two automatic berths into the North Coast Section championships.
Amador, by virtue of winning the Valley in the fall of 2019, joins the Mountain Division with De La Salle, Monte Vista, San Ramon Valley, California and Clayton Valley.
Foothill, after finishing at the bottom of the Mountain in 2019, is relegated to the Valley alongside Granada, Livermore, Dublin and Dougherty Valley.
In the past there was a notable difference in the two divisions, but this year, while the Mountain carries the top teams, the level of play in the Valley will be the best it has been in a long while.
"This might be the best year on both sides," Foothill coach Greg Haubner said of the two divisions. "Football is as elevated as it has ever been in the EBAL."
Both Haubner and Amador head coach Danny Jones are as optimistic as I have seen in their tenures at their respective programs.
While a formal preview of Amador and Foothill is coming in a few weeks when the teams are close to starting their respective league seasons, let's take a quick look at each team with their top players.
"This is the most physical team I've coached," Jones said. "We are bigger than ever, and we are as physical as ever."
Which is a must to compete in the Mountain as outside of De La Salle, San Ramon Valley might be sending out one of its best teams in a storied line of talent.
"We are going to need that physicality just to compete," Jones said. "We've had an amazing summer."
Jones is looking for big things out Brady Nassar, EJ Thomsen and Kai Burgermeister.
Nassar (TE/DE) is a 6-foot-4, 235 pound junior who already has a scholarship offer from Washington.
"(Nassar) could end up being the biggest recruit ever from Amador," Jones said. "He's got that offer already from Washington, and he hasn't even stepped foot on the field as a junior."
Burgermeister (RB/LB) is being counted on for big things as the h-back for the Dons, with the versatile Thomsen running the show as the quarterback.
Jones lauded all three for their leadership skills as well.
As for the Falcons, it might be the best Foothill team since 2015 where they went to the NCS finals after beating Antioch and Najee Harris in the semifinals before playing De La Salle tough in the finale.
Haubner is looking at a quartet of players to be the leaders and the difference makers for the Falcons.
At the forefront is quarterback Nick Walsh, who is in his third year of playing QB for the varsity and is coming off a season where he closed strongly.
"Nick has been fantastic so far," Haubner said. "He's picked right up where he left off last season. He is one of the best decision makers I have ever coached."
Next is Kenny Olson who is all over the field on both sides of the ball, whether it's running or catching the ball on offense, or running down the play as a linebacker on defense.
Olson, the son of Las Vegas Raiders offensive coordinator Greg Olson, is according to Haubner "the hardest working kid I have had."
Brandon Sousa is a 6-foot-4, 270-pound lineman that Haubner believes will be a D-I player. The athletic Connor Perez (WR/DB) rounds out the leaders for the Falcons.
Editor's note: Dennis Miller is a contributing sports writer for the Pleasanton Weekly. To contact him about his Pleasanton Preps column, email [email protected] And sign up to read the new Tri-Valley Preps Playbook newsletter, via www.pleasantonweekly.com/express/sports.