ATWATER -- It didn't take long for Kevin Swartwood to realize things had to change.
The Buhach Colony coach didn't want to feel the way he did on the long bus ride home after a 51-14 loss to Antioch in the second week of the 2006 season.
Swartwood felt his team had quit before the game was over.
His team needed an attitude adjustment.
"I thought there were three games last year -- Antioch, Merced and Golden Valley -- where we didn't compete," Swartwood said. "The game was over in warm-ups.
"I want to see us do well. I expect us to do well or die trying to do well. I want us fighting and scratching until the last second."
Senior lineman Ronnie Carter has seen a change.
"I think so," Carter said. "Last year, I think people came in just wanting to get through it.
"This year it's different. People are hyped up and ready to get after it."
As a smaller school competing in the Central California Conference, Swartwood knows his team is already starting the season with a disadvantage.
Playing in a league with a Merced team loaded with athletes fresh off a section title game appearance and a Pitman squad stacked on defense, you won't find many people tabbing Buhach as the preseason favorite.
"We're playing teams with more talent," Swartwood said. "If we can come together as a team, we can compete with those teams. That's our goal."
Unlike last year, Buhach players won't be asked to learn a new offense.
All the players played in Swartwood's Fly offense last year. With a year to digest it, they're comfortable with it.
"Now we can add more stuff to perfect it," Carter said.
"In past years we were learning a new offense every year. Now we can just work on things to get better timing here and there."
Buhach won't be the most experienced team in the conference.
Roughly half of the starting spots on both sides of the ball were up for grabs coming into fall practice.
"Every one is trying to earn a spot," said Joe Medeiros, who happens to be one of the few players who has already earned a spot as a third-year starter at linebacker.
"In the past, a lot of guys came in already knowing they had a spot. It's going to make people work harder.
"It's not just one or two people going for spots, either. At some positions it's three, four or five people."
Swartwood is enjoying watching the competition unfold in practice.
"I think it can be a positive," he said. "We have a lot of players competing for open spots.
"I'd like to have more returners because that's more experience and more experience could make us a better team.
"We're not an experienced team. But I like this group."