Although the Falcons enter the season without a clear-cut first or second option on the offensive side of the ball, the team has a number of talented athletes who could prove to be difference makers by the end of the year.
Head coach Kevin Hartwig expects significant contributions from Harvey Burks, Lance White, Ryan Rodriguez, Anthony Anderson, Hunter Simpson and Roman Runner, who must shoulder the load if Freedom expects to repeat the success it enjoyed last year.
The Falcons got their first taste of competition last Friday when the team scrimmaged against James Logan, Las Lomas and Foothill, each of whom made the NCS playoffs last year.
"It pays off at the end," Hartwig said of scrimmaging against top-tier teams. "The tougher the teams you play, the better you are at the end run. And our end run is San Ramon, De La Salle, Liberty and Deer Valley - our last four weeks of the season are pretty darn tough - so you have to prepare now."
This year the Falcons won't be asked to go both ways on an every-down basis, a fact that Hartwig predicts will keep his players fresh and allow them to play with more intensity down-by-down. While a player who starts on the offensive side of the ball might be asked to come in and take a few snaps on defense, he'll also be afforded the opportunity to rest while the "Group One" defense is on the field.
"We want an offense and a defense, but numbers dictate that a lot," explained Hartwig. "With us this year I think we're going to be (of the mindset that) you're an offensive player and maybe a backup on defense type thing. Our ultimate goal is to break it up so that our players don't have to go both ways all the time."
Hartwig used Cody Juarez, a junior defensive lineman, as an example of how working his players in groups helps them develop. Because Juarez isn't being asked to start on the offensive side of the ball, he's basically able to get double the reps in at practice, working against Freedom's first-team offense in both offensive and defensive drills, and the benefit of those additional repetitions is easy to spot.
"This year he's healthy and he's huge now. Last year he was hurt a little bit all year and he was just a sophomore puppy. This year he's really matured. I hate him every day because he gives us problems as an offense: 'Can someone block Cody?' He's doing real well. I'm looking forward to unleashing him on another team - I'm tired of blocking him."
Hartwig gets his wish Friday, Sept. 7, when he'll let Juarez and the rest of the stout Falcon defense loose on Castro Valley in the team's season opener. Varsity kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m., while the JV team gets things started with a 5 p.m. kickoff.
Castro Valley @ Freedom 7 p.m.
Pittsburg @ Freedom 7 p.m.
Freedom @ Heritage 7:30 p.m.
Clayton Valley @ Freedom 7:30 p.m.
Freedom @ Ygnacio Valley 1 p.m.
Freedom @ Deer Valley 7:30 p.m.
Freedom @ Antioch 7:30 p.m.
San Ramon Valley @ Freedom 7:30 p.m.
De La Salle @ Freedom 7:30 p.m.
Liberty @ Freedom 7:30 p.m.