LE GRAND — Ryan Martinez waited as patiently as a kid could.
For years the head coach's son was on the outside of Le Grand's longest-standing tradition looking in, shadowing the program's storied walk through campus as a silent observer.
"I waited a really long time to be a part of the walk, so I was pretty excited my sophomore year when I finally got to do it," Martinez said. "I'd always been with my dad at the back, but it wasn't the same.
"My cousin grabbed me and showed me what to do. Walking through the buildings, hearing your cleats on the ground. It just gets everyone focused."
The Bulldogs start their journey after stretching out on a dark field near the front of the school. They start out two-by-two and eventually merge arm-in-arm into lines of four. Before reaching the field, the team stops and exchanges a quick round of hugs and handshakes.
"It's something we do to reaffirm that the guy next to you has your back when we go out onto the field," Le Grand head coach Rick Martinez said. "It's pretty special and it gets the kids pretty fired up."
There's been no shortage of fire around the Le Grand campus the last few years with the Bulldogs making four straight trips to the Sac-Joaquin Section Division 5 title game. Martinez's squad has come home with blue banners from the last three.
This fall should be no different as talk of a possible 10-0 season and the school's second trip to a state bowl game in three years swirls around.
"We've got just about everybody back," Rick Martinez said. "We've got three seniors that have been big contributors since they were sophomores. We know the expectations are high, and that's where we want them.
"We've got some tough teams ahead and a lot to take care of first, but the potential is definitely there."
It helps that he has three seniors that have already accumulated so much championship bling that they'd set an airport security line back for hours trying to get it all off.
Since stepping on campus, the trio of Ryan Martinez, Juan Gomez and Dustin Slate have never seen the Bulldogs fail to win section title. All three were on the varsity as sophomores. They'll be the catalysts for keeping the run going.
"There are expectations, but it's a good environment to be around," Gomez said. "We like being the team with the targets on our back.
"Our coaches get us prepared to go out and execute in that environment, and we've been able to do it."
The Bulldogs have plenty of experience to go along with the trio.
Junior receiver Christian Williams proved one of the most dynamic players in the area as a sophomore. Eduardo Bedolla and Angel Zaragoza give the Bulldogs a pair of big strong anchors on the offensive line.
The defense returns just about everybody, anchored by Slate at linebacker and Martinez at safety.
There weren't many holes that needed filling, but junior Frankie Contreras will take the reigns under center and transfer Joseph Kryger should make an impact on both sides of the line.
"We like what we have back. We're excited about the guys that we've added," Rick Martinez said. "We have a good mix of experienced leaders and guys that are hungry to join the program."