TURLOCK -- No one wants to forget the 2009 season more than James Peterson, whose first year with Turlock High was the worst in the football program's 90-year history.
A series of injuries, difficulty mastering the pistol attack and a porous defense contributed to an 0-10 season, just the second time since 1920 the Bulldogs failed to win a game.
It was the first time they suffered 10 losses in one season.
"Coach told us the first day of summer practice that what happened last year was history," says defensive end Brett Garris. "He said he wasn't going to talk about 0-10 again."
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The season was particularly difficult on the defense, allowing 49 points a game. The 'Dogs gave up 79 and 65 points in consecutive weeks, and 40 or more in six other games.
While the senior class tries to shed that stigma, this is a group of players untarnished by those failures: The junior class was 10-0 last fall, rolling to the Central California Conference junior varsity crown.
"It's going to be real competitive for starting spots," says Bradli Badali, a junior receiver and defensive back. "The success we had last year, I think it will help us get off to a good start this season. It's going to feel good to get the first win."
Turlock drew a nice opener at Downey -- the second half of the Modesto Kickoff Classic on Aug. 27 -- as the Knights' potent passing game was gutted by graduation and the defense struggled to stop foes last season.
"It's important we get off to a good start. It will get everyone focused on the next game, rather than wondering if we will go 0-10 again," says Peterson, eager to deliver Turlock its first CCC title since 2003.
The Bulldogs' will get a nice test in Week 2, hosting rival Oakdale on the synthetic turf at renovated Debely Stadium.
"I think the turf will benefit our offense, because we're going to spread the field and the turf gives us good traction," says 5-foot-11, 240-pound center Michael Nissan, who also expects a physical camp prior to the opener. "No one wants to go through last year again. The JV was 10-0 and the varsity was 0-10, so the juniors are coming in with confidence."
Turlock's ability to correct last year's mistakes is largely reliant on quarterback Kevin Kramer, one of the few bright spots in 2009. He led Turlock to 56 points vs. Buhach Colony and 42 vs. Cordova -- but the defense gave up 79 and 65.
The school's top athlete, he can run and throw, and his agility makes him a tough target for defensive linemen. He will get help with the return of Ricky Fuentes, a fleet back who was injured last year.
Kramer will take virtually every snap in the shotgun, as the "fly" back runs in motion. That gives Kramer the option of giving the ball to the back, tuck it away and run himself or throw the ball downfield.
"The defense needs to fear the sweep for the pistol to be effective, and I think Ricky's speed will do it," says Peterson, noting Braden Esquivel also is fit for the role.
"Those two, with Kevin, give us good athletes. Kevin's got good mobility and he's a beast when he has the ball in his hands."
Kramer's also one of the top baseball prospects in the region, and split his summer between the sports.
There was some concern he might focus on baseball as a senior, but Peterson expects him to be taking snaps in the opener.
"We've got a lot of tradition here at Turlock and Kevin enjoys being part of that," Peterson says. "Kevin, like the rest of us, wants to make people forget about the 2009 season."