Darin DuPont has heard the talk.
Not long after the Buhach Colony football team raised its third straight Central California Conference title, the rumors of its impending demise began to circulate. The senior quarterback just laughs.
Few teams get to enjoy the kind of run the Thunder have put together (three straight undefeated CCC seasons), so it only stands to reason that there will be a natural fall off.
The losses of Leon Miles, Joe Marquez, Aaron Cochran, Stefon Gold, Jayce Webster and many more have plenty believing this will be the season.
Kevin Swartwood isn't convinced.
The Thunder head coach heard the same speculations after the 2010 season, and to some degree, last year. Swartwood and company have just continued to go about their business.
"I think this is a group that's definitely under the radar," Swartwood said. "We're going to be pretty young in a lot of places, but I like the makeup.
"We've got good speed, powerful runners and aggressive kids playing on defense. There's no doubt they have the talent, it's just a question of whether they can come together."
That attitude is etched in bold dark letters on the handle of the team's sledgehammer. There's no talk of rebuilding or retooling. The team's annual mantra simply reads 'Execute.'
"The tradition is more than just a word, it's a way of life for the team," DuPont said. "It's something you live by as a football team.
"When we won our first title the word was foundation. That team went out and laid the groundwork for all the success since then. Last year was ambition. We wanted to go out and do something the school had never done before.
"This year it's 'Execute.' If every guy goes out and takes care of his job on every play. We'll get where we want to go."
The hammer and the words written on it are part of a series of BC traditions that kick off the football season and culminate at the team's midnight madness.
The team meets a couple hours before the Sac-Joaquin Section's dead period officially ends. They put the year's word on the hammer and then go out for a quick practice that begins at midnight.
"It's really become one of the kid's favorite things," Swartwood said. "It's not really a practice, it's more like a quick, high-intensity warm up to the season. There's parents and students there watching. It's a lot of fun."
Plenty of players got a taste of their first midnight madness this season, but BC does have its share of returners.
DuPont served as understudy to Marquez on both sides of the ball and saw a handful of reps. George Lopez and Ray Rodriguez provide experience on both sides of the line and Kevin Kellerher should be a challenge to offensive lines once he gets the cast off of his injured foot.
Justin Stefani and Tony Padilla will lead the linebacking corps and Kevin Walejko will run the secondary and play wideout.
There's a bevy of new running backs to get acquainted with in the Thunder's Fly offense, including Quintin Levesque, Aundre Sherman and Stephon Eastman.
If things go according to plan Buhach expects to be in contention for a fourth straight crown.
"People have been saying we're coming back down for years," Rodriguez said. "They can think whatever they want. We know how hard we work and how prepared our coaches get us to play. We'll be ready."