Roy Lee (Freedom Football)

Freedom running back Roy Lee stiff arms Antioch cornerback Dejuan Butler in the Falcons’ 14-7 win last week. Freedom opens its season at Turlock.

The high school football season kicks off on Aug. 23.

For most Bay Valley Athletic League (BVAL) football fans, that will mean jumping into their cars to watch their local squads, at least for the first week.

Four of the six BVAL teams — all but Antioch and Deer Valley — will start their 2019 campaigns on the road, but nobody is complaining, and every squad is entering the season with high expectations.

“Everyone wants to be 10-0, but on the same hand, you want to be competitive and get after it,” said Heritage head coach Don Sanders. “I think we’ll definitely be able to do that.”

Liberty, the reigning California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) Division 1-A state champions, will travel to Vacaville (6-5 last season) for a rematch against the 2018 CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Division II playoff squad, whom the Lions beat 35-10 at home last year.

Fellow Brentwood squad Heritage (1-9 last season) aims to reverse their fortunes while defending against North Coast Section (NCS) Division I champion San Ramon Valley (9-4 in 2018), a team Sanders said shell-shocked his young squad in last year’s season opener.

“Last year, we had SRV, and we were so young that I think it kind of shocked them how outmatched we were in that game,” he said.  “It took us a while to get back on track, but I don’t think that will be an issue this year.”

Meanwhile, Freedom (9-4 in 2018), last year’s NCS Division I runner-up, will begin their season with a fresh-faced squad on the road against Turlock (8-4 last year), who made it to the quarterfinals in last year’s Sac-Joaquin Section Division I playoffs.

Despite a slew of new Falcons taking the field this season, Freedom head coach Andrew Cotter said the team’s mindset hasn’t changed.

“It’s not a whole lot different,” he said. “We try to take a very consistent approach to the game. The two biggest things are working as hard as we can and trying to stay as positive as we can. Football is a game of adversity and how you deal with it, and we like to think with hard work and positivity, you can get through any adversity.”

Pittsburg (7-4 last year), a perennial NCS Open Division Playoff team, will begin its season at Stockton’s St Mary’s, (7-5 last year), a CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Division I semifinalist last season.

Back in East County, Deer Valley (4-6 last season) looks to claim its first win of the season from visitors American Canyon (6-6 last year), a NCS Division II playoff quarterfinal squad a year ago.

“I really like to take it one game at a time,” said Deer Valley head coach Robert Hubbard. “I want to win the first game.”

Not far away, Antioch High (7-4 last season) will look to shake off a tough NCS quarterfinal loss to Vintage when it welcomes Amador Valley (8-3 last year), a 2018 NCS Division I quarterfinal squad.

Antioch’s, Deer Valley’s, Freedom’s and Pittsburg’s games begin at 7 p.m., with Heritage’s starting at 7:15 p.m. and Liberty’s at 7:30 p.m.

For complete BVAL team previews and schedules, visit www.thepress.net/special/bval_football_preview

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