Another stop in the Southeast Yosemite League before the work week ends takes us to another program that is rebuilding after losing a talented, large senior class.

Keep in mind I'll be posting previews throughout the weekend, too, with a couple of SEYL schools to come tomorrow and probably another on Sunday, too. The beginning of the season beckons, so we'd better get through these quick-like.

Countdown to Week 0: 14 days


Coach: Steve Montanio (second year)

2011 record: 6-5 (3-1 Southeast Yosemite League, 3-2 home, lost 38-22 at Porterville in first round of Division III playoffs)

Average points: 23.0

Average points allowed: 19.8

Average rush yards: 165.7

*Average rush yards allowed: 202.5

Average pass yards: 192.5

*Average pass yards allowed: 76.7

Best win: Highland 41, Foothill 13

Worst loss: Golden Valley 26, Highland 14
*—yardage figures are from MaxPreps and are only used if at least half of games are available. Take them with a grain of salt. Figure could be skewed depending on which games, if any, are missing

Key players: Tyler Kirkland, sr, RB/LB; Robert Lopez, sr, OL/DL; Brendan Johnson, jr, RB/DB; Breaker Brannan, soph, QB/LB

Key losses: Ryan O'Leary, QB/WR/DB; Maverick Su'a, LB; Zach Pasqua, QB/LB; Jordan Alvarez, LB; Jacquan Ford, RB/LB; Justin Vlahos, WR/DB; Cody Jones, WR/DB; Joseph Juarez, TE/DL

Offense: The "key losses" list above is long and strong for a reason: Highland enjoyed a great senior class last season, with enough playmakers to overcome a midseason injury to Pasqua and still make a strong push to the end of the regular season. The flip side to that, of course, is that all of those seniors graduated. One — that's right, just one — offensive starter returns. That's lineman Robert Lopez. Breaker Brannan, just a sophomore but already a member of my Kern County all-name team, will likely take over at quarterback, and coach Steve Montanio said he can already do some special things. Tyler Kirkland likely takes over the lead back role, but Highland needs fill-ins on the offensive line and at receiver, where one of the better crops in recent Highland history just departed.

Defense: Seven Scots had at least 30 tackles last year; all but safety Brendan Johnson have graduated, leaving as many holes on this side of the ball. Lopez is back up front for his third year as a starting defensive lineman, and that's a good place to start. Brannan and Jack Lopez will man the linebacker spots, and they'll need to work wonders to match the production of Maverick Su'a, Jordan Alvarez and Jacquan Ford. To make matters more difficult, defensive coordinator Kenny Haslip has left for Mira Monte. Highland played really good defense during its push to a 3-1 league record last year, so there is talent here, but a lot of talent is gone and much of the experience will have to come on the fly.

Outlook: It's a shame that Highland lost a couple of winnable games early last season, but once the Scots got it rolling, they beat Independence and North, played Garces down to the wire and then hammered East and Foothill to claim a clear second place in the SEYL. But an early loss to Golden Valley cost them at least three seeding lines in Division III, and a first-round trip to Porterville was the punishment. Because of that, Highland didn't really take advantage of a great senior class. Now in Year 2, Montanio almost has to start from scratch. Many backups from last year step into leading roles, and Breaker Brannan, while talented, is still just a sophomore being asked to lead an inexperienced offense. A drop-off is unavoidable, especially with Tehachapi joining the SEYL; Highland hopes to compete with most D-III teams and become a force at the end of the year again.

Quotable: "I look at our schedule, and if we win the games we should win, we'll be OK. But the expectations aren't as high as last year. The kids are working hard and showing commitment, but when you lose 12 senior starters, expectations are going to go down." — Montanio

Schedule: Aug. 24 at Arvin

Aug. 31 South

Sept. 7 at Golden Valley

Sept. 14 Independence

Sept. 21 BYE

Sept. 28 at Mira Monte

Oct. 5 Garces*

Oct. 12 Tehachapi*

Oct. 19 at East*

Oct. 26 North*

Nov. 2 at Foothill*
*—SEYL game

Prediction: 2-8, 2-3 SEYL


July 30: 8-man schools

July 31: Boron, Burroughs

Aug. 1: Rosamond, Kern Valley

Aug. 2: California City, Desert, Frazier Mountain

Aug. 2: McFarland, Delano

Aug. 3: Kennedy, Chavez

Aug. 4: Taft

Aug. 4: Wasco

Aug. 5: Arvin

Aug. 6: Shafter

Aug. 6: Bakersfield Christian

Aug. 7: Golden Valley

Aug. 7: Mira Monte

Aug. 8: West

Aug. 8: South

Aug. 9: Ridgeview

Aug. 10: Foothill

Up next: North High