NORTHWEST GLENDALE — Less than a week before its season-opener, the members of the Hoover High football team are at peace.
For starters, the Tornadoes won't have to worry about having to snap a 20-game losing streak, something they faced last year when they began the season. Secondly, they own the Victory Bell after rallying to earn a victory against cross-town rival Glendale.
Now, it's about striving beyond those goals for the Tornadoes, who will begin their season Friday with a nonleague road game against Sierra Vista.
The Tornadoes will look to post their first winning record since 1987. They went 2-8 and 1-6 for seventh place in the Pacific League last season.
Hoover third-year Coach Chris Long said it's time to turn the corner and post some victories.
"We seem to have a group of players who are that much more dedicated and committed to winning," Long said. "It started back in January, when they came in early and started running and lifting weights to get ready for this season.
"They want to improve and that's the first step you have to have. The key will be to get that first win and keep building confidence."
The Tornadoes will field a 30-member squad, down from the 36 they began with to start last season. There are 15 seniors, 13 juniors and a pair of sophomores on board to help possibly steer Hoover in the direction of climbing up the league standings.
Any further improvement would be gravy for the Tornadoes, who scored 118 points and yielded 294 last season. In 2008, Hoover scored only 74 points and yielded a whopping 500.
"The goals will be to get at least five or six wins and try to make the playoffs," said Long, whose team will also participate in nonleague games against South Pasadena and Mountain View before starting league competition at 7 p.m. Sept. 30 against defending-league champion Burroughs at Glendale High's Moyse Field. "I think we have some good players across the board, starting at the skill positions.
"In terms of the skill positions, it might be the best group that I've had here. Our weakness is that we have a lack of depth up front on the line."
Handling the quarterback chores will be senior AJ Pule, who completed 92 of 181 passes for 1,157 yards last season. He tossed six touchdowns and had eight interceptions.
Pule, a right-hander, will once again have senior wide receivers Dymond McRae and Devaughn Williams as his primary deep-threat targets. McRae caught 11 passes for 354 yards and Williams hauled in 17 receptions for 160 yards.
"We feel like those three are good skill players who can help us out," Long said. "I think we are going to score some points.
"Our offense this year will be better than our defense."
Others who will see playing time at wide receiver are Gerardo Frasco, Kareem Hamadani and Jesse Pena.
The starting running back will be junior Luke Taboyoyong.
The offensive line will feature senior tackles Sergio Arenas and Joel Perez. The guards will consist of Thomas Bauw, Wilfred Ong, David Vargas, Andy Camacho and Enrique Diaz. The center will be Jim Perez.
Diaz, a second-year varsity athlete who will also see time at nose guard, said the Tornadoes have some experience.
"We have a lot of guys who will be back," Diaz said. "We have worked hard throughout the spring and summer."
Long said the Tornadoes have some question marks with special teams. Hoover is seeking a suitable punter and place kicker, in addition to a kick-off return specialist.
The defensive tackles could feature a combination of Bauw, Roney Escobar and Gevork Petrosyan. The defensive ends could be Camacho and Joel Perez.
The linebackers will be Arenas, Ong, Jim Perez and Vargas.
The corner backs will be Frasco and Taboyoyong, while the safeties are Hamadani, McRae, Pena and Pule.
2010 HOOVER SCHEDULE
2010 HOOVER SCHEDULE
Friday at Sierra Vista, 7 p.m.
Sept. 16 vs. South Pasadena, 7 p.m.^
Sept. 24 at Mountain View, 7 p.m.
Sept. 30 vs. Burroughs, 7 p.m.*^
Oct. 8 at Crescenta Valley, 7 p.m.*^
Oct. 14 at Burbank, 7 p.m.*#
Oct. 22 at Muir, 7 p.m.*
Oct. 29 at Arcadia, 7 p.m.*
Nov. 5 vs. Pasadena, 7 p.m.*^
Nov. 12 vs. Glendale, 7 p.m.*^
* denotes Pacific League game
^ denotes games at Moyse Field
# denotes at Burroughs High