MERCED — It's easy to understand why Jashaan Wright is a little extra excited for the start of the football season.
The Golden Valley senior wide receiver spent most of his junior season watching from the sidelines after injuring his knee in the Cougars' fourth game against Grace Davis.
On Saturday night, Wright will take the field when the Cougars travel to Modesto to face Downey.
"It was terrible," Wright said of last season. "I had to watch my teammates suffer. They did what they could, but I felt I could have made a difference. It was tough watching my team lose."
Golden Valley went 2-2 with Wright on the field. He made an impact, intercepting a pass against Downey, catching two touchdowns in a win over Central Valley and added a kickoff return for a touchdown before the injury.
In that game against Davis, Wright caught a screen pass and headed up field. When he went down he hyperextended his left knee. The result was a sprained knee and a partially torn medial collateral ligament.
Wright watched as the Cougars went 1-5 the rest of the way.
"If he plays the whole year last year, we have (Andre) Bodiker on one side and him on the other," coach Dennis Stubbs said. "That's pretty good right there. We were thin at the receiver position and thin at defensive back. We went through a lot of corners trying to find someone to take his spot. We missed him big time."
Wright worked hard in the offseason to prepare for this year.
He ran track in the spring and lifted weights in the summer. He's able to squat 395 pounds, nearly 140 pounds more than last year.
Stubbs feels Wright is the best athlete on the team.
"There's no doubt about it," Stubbs said. "He's gotten stronger. He worked hard to improve his strength. He can still fly. I've been really impressed with his work ethic."
Wright will be counted on to do a little of everything for the Cougars. He'll play defensive back, return kicks and play receiver.
"He's going to play a lot of offense, but we're really trying to set the ground work for Cougar football," Stubbs said. "Our focus is on defense. We've got to set a good foundation. We're not going to beat a lot of teams until we get better on defense. We're spending a lot of time on defense.
"When Jashaan needs rest, we'll probably give him a rest on offense."
Wright just wants to do what ever he can to help turn around the program. He and his senior class have only enjoyed five wins coming through the program.
"This is my last chance right here," Wright said. "Every day we talk about how many wins we've had since we got to Golden Valley. It's five. That's just sad. Our freshman year we were 0-10. Across town, Merced went 10-0.
"We want to be the ones who change that. We just want to win. There's not going to be another Game 1. There's not going to be another senior year. After this season, football is over for a lot of us. We're trying to go big."