A year ago at this time, Dustin Caropreso admits he was a nervous wreck.
Not only was getting ready to coach his first game for the Los Banos Tigers, but he was also preparing his team to face a powerhouse program from Escalon.
Squaring off against legendary Cougars coach Mark Loureiro can cause even the most experienced coaches a couple restless nights.
"I think I drove my wife crazy, I was on tilt," Caropreso said. "It was the first time I was leading my team out there. It's something I always dreamed of doing. I also wanted to make sure I proved that they made the right choice in choosing me.
"I put a lot of pressure on myself."
It was a memorable night for Caropreso. The Tigers celebrated a gut-wrenching 34-32 win. It was the start of a successful first season that saw Los Banos finish 12-2 before losing to the same Escalon team 42-35 in quadruple overtime in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division 4 semifinals.
Fast forward one year, and now Caropreso is getting ready for year No. 2. Again it's another date with Escalon looming one week from Friday.
"We've been thinking about it all offseason," Caropreso said. "We went 12-2 last year with a loss in the semifinals in a game that went four overtimes. How do you one-up that?
"You've got to get to the section championship game. We've set the bar high after the first year."
Some programs prefer an easier opponent in the first week just to get the bugs worked out. But Caropreso likes the idea of scheduling tough opponents early in the season. You can find out just how good you are right away.
Apparently, a lot of local football coaches feel the same. The proof can be found by looking at the schedule for the opening week. Here are some of the other high-profile matchups:
Clovis West at Merced
San Ramon Valley at Buhach Colony
Atwater at Franklin of Elk Grove
Le Grand at Orestimba
When coaches schedule aggressively like this the winners are the fans. This is often a chance to see playoff-caliber football in August.
Clovis West is coming off a tough season, but the Golden Eagles are one of the premiere programs in the Fresno area. The Fresno Bee has Clovis West at 13th in its pre-season Central Section rankings.
San Ramon Valley is a perrenial power in the North Coast Section. That's why it raised eyebrows last year when the Thunder won 28-24 on the road.
Elk Grove's Franklin went 12-1 last season, losing to eventual state champion Granite Bay in the Division 1 playoffs.
Orestimba is coming off a 5-5 season, but it has one of the top small-school running backs in the Sac-Joaquin Section in Steven Machado, who rushed for 1,927 yards and 23 touchdowns last year. It might be the Bulldogs' toughest opponent this year.
What I like about games like this is we get to find out a lot about our teams right away. Buhach Colony's win over San Ramon Valley last year told us the Thunder were for real.
It'll be interesting to see what we learn next week.
Shawn Jansen is a Sun-Star sports reporter. He can be reached at (209) 385-2462 or via email at email@example.com