LIVINGSTON — As soon as Jorge Mendoza hears the drum line banging on the drums 1,000 yards away, goose bumps start forming on his arms.
"When we're warming up and we start hearing the band, we can feel it," said Mendoza, who is a senior two-way lineman for Livingston. "As soon as we get behind the band and they start playing, we know it's about to go down."
As long as Livingston head coach Chris Lacey can remember, the school band has always led the football team onto the field before home games.
"We're usually warming up in the backfield before games," Lacey said. "As soon as our guys start hearing the band, when they hear that drum line, warm-ups change. The guys get pumped up. You start hearing those pads thud. It's like Friday night is here."
Ask the players and they'll tell you how the intensity builds as they get closer to the stadium.
"The band starts slow, and then they get faster and faster. By the time we're about to go into the stadium we're going nuts and ready to explode," Mendoza said.
Mendoza and his teammates feel they have plenty of reasons to be excited this season. They put a lot of work in the offseason in preparation for this year.
"They put an insane amount of time in during the summer," said Lacey, who begins his seventh season leading the program. "Probably more time than any of the teams I've had in the past. We spent a lot of times at passing leagues.
"We did it because they wanted to. It was like, 'Coach can we do this? Can we go here?' I was like, 'Fine, let's go do it.' "
The Wolves return junior quarterback C.J. Avila, who will be a bigger part of their offense after throwing for 670 yards and six touchdowns last season.
Avila looks like a different player as he stands at 6 feet, 2 inches tall and 200 pounds.
"His footwork is a lot better, he has a better understanding of the offense with a year under his belt and he's filled out as an athlete," Lacey said. "He's bigger and stronger. He's not afraid to throw it or tuck it under and run."
Avila is looking forward to playing a bigger role.
"I want to be able to throw," Avila said. "We're still going to try to run first and use the play-action, but we want to be able to spread it out more this year."
The Wolves have one of the biggest running backs in the area to turn to in junior Quian Newson (6-2, 235).
"He's a house," Lacey said. "He's fast, too. He's not going to lumber through the line for us. He ran track last year and that's paid off for him. He's a three-sport athlete. We haven't seen anyone that big in our backfield for about 20 years."
With only 11 seniors on the roster, the Wolves will be a young team. That's going to change what Livingston can do early on this season.
"It makes us do a lot more teaching," Lacey said. "Our coaching staff has to understand we were a senior-laden team last year. We had guys who just knew what to do. This year we have to really focus on the individual stuff. We have to focus a lot more on technique."