Leading the enthusiasm for the new season is the fact that 12 starters are returning. They include senior quarterback Joey Gonzales along with a slew of linemen - Josh Lujan, Daniel Akers, Stephen Dokken, Kris Scott and Mark Anthony - in what is shaping up to be a formidable front.
The Panthers will continue to be athletic at the skill positions. Dominic Siino and Adam McAroy provide experience at the receiver positions, while Andre Martin and Mike Nelson return in the defensive secondary.
Coach Beede has also cited newcomers Zack Gonzales and Dylan Zimmerman among the major surprises of the off-season. And Junior Tim Thomas provides speed in the backfield, as he looks to display the acceleration that made him the BVAL 100-meter-dash champion last spring.
For Coach Beede and the Panthers, one of the biggest concerns entering the season is to establish a presence on defense, especially with a new defensive coordinator, John Lucido, and new defensive backs coach, Chris Henry.
This transition will be tested early with a retooled non-league schedule. The Panthers are on the road for five of their first six games, with three new opponents, to start the season.
Antioch opens the season with Monterey Trail of Elk Grove, a second-year varsity program coming off a 1-9 season a year ago. The Panthers then host Buhach Colony of Atwater before facing an always-tough Vintage High squad from Napa. Despite losing a number of starters to graduation, Vintage looks to be an early barometer for Antioch.
"Monterey Trail should be a good game to begin the year with," said Coach Beede. "We'll then really be looking to the Vintage game to test our strength heading into the BVAL part of our schedule."
After finishing at the bottom of the BVAL for the past two seasons, there's nowhere to go but up, and Beede is confident that the Panthers can be more competitive this year.
While he acknowledges that Pittsburg is the team to beat with a solid overall program, he said there are a lot of unknowns in the always-competitive league, especially with two new head coaches (Liberty, Ygnacio Valley) taking the reins.
In addition to establishing the necessary defensive presence, the Panthers also need to continue improving on offense. Put simply: they need to win football games. After the last two tough years, achieving those goals is a top priority for Coach Beede and the Panther faithful.