By GERARDO RECINOS
Alhambra Football has endured many changes over its decades as a program, but this season especially will be all about change.
The first and biggest change will be the inception of a new league. The Diablo Athletic League is a 16-team super-conference with two conferences split up for the purpose of providing competitive equity.
Alhambra will be lining up against teams such as the rival College Park Falcons, and the Mt. Diablo Red Devils (one of the only teams in the area who has fielded a team as long as Alhambra has).
“It’s a good situation for us. I think we always aspire to be in the more competitive league, and we have done so for years, and it’s made us a good program,” Head Coach Alan Hern said. “On the other hand with the inexperience we have this year, it’s a good situation for us to be in a league where we don’t play Campolindo, or a Clayton Valley High School.”
The Bulldogs graduated 24 seniors last year, and will only be bringing back 10 returning varsity players; of those 10, only five will be returning for their senior season.
“We have a lot of talented players, and I like our players,” said Hern. “I think they can be very good as we get deeper into the season.
“But we’re overcoming some jitters and inexperience right now,” he said, noting the scrimmage against Will C. Wood as a part of some of the growing pains this group will have to endure this season.
But that transition will be made.
The turnover will be coming at seemingly every position, starting with the quarterback job. Daymyn Blalock and Aaron Hern have been sharing the reps at practice. Blalock took some snaps under center last year to spell starter Zach Elliott, and displayed some shifty moves when he saw open spaces to run. Hern led the freshman team to a turn around season after the program had struggled in recent seasons.They will, however, have the luxury of having a very experienced and young offensive line in front of them. Tackles Tyler Clemons and Eddie Taylor shone in their sophomore years and were both rewarded with All-DFAL honorable mention selections, while the only senior expected to start on the offensive line, Lenny Castro, earned a second-team All-DFAL selection for his solid season.
The one spot the Bulldogs will be breaking in a new player is at center. After the loss of a key player and captain Jason Parilla, the Bulldogs will look to junior Nick Haro to call the shots.
Most of those guys will go both ways for Hern’s team, with the coach saying he expects big things from Clemons, Castro, Taylor and Haro.
Continuing the pattern of uncertainty, the Bulldogs will be returning none of their corner backs from last season, and will be breaking in new players in the secondary.
That change will be tested immediately, starting off Friday night.
The Bulldogs will start this season with a familiar foe who has also made some changes. Acalanes will be the opponent on opening night, but not the same Dons team that played smash mouth style football under Mike Ivankovich. Their new pro-style passing game will surely test the Bulldog secondary.
Hern’s logic when scheduling the game against Acalanes, as well as match ups against former DFAL foes Miramonte and Las Lomas, was simple. He wanted his teams to see tough games in pre-season before the League campaign, and he wanted to keep some of those old rivalries around with teams that have played each other over 50 times (such as Miramonte and Acalanes).
“I thought it was important for tradition’s sake, but they’re (Acalanes, Miramonte and Las Lomas) well coached and it helps us farther down the line when you play teams like that,” Hern said.
The season will kick off at 7 p.m. on Friday night, Aug. 26, at Knowles Field.