Outlook: Can the Bulls return to the county's elite?

Hereford missed the playoffs for only the third time in the last 18 years last season.

The Bulls are certainly hungry to get back to the postseason.

"We are excited about this season," Turnbaugh said. "Our juniors and seniors are a talented group. We might not be as big as we have been in the past, but we have a tremendous work ethic."

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Hereford's success could hinge on its improving 3-4 defense.

The unit was just too young last year, according to Turnbaugh.

"Last year, we started from scratch, defensively," the coach explained. "But all those guys gained valuable experience. We are very pleased with where the defense is right now. It's a very cohesive unit and everybody knows their role. And they are communicating very, very well."

Linebacker is the unit's strong suit with Turnbaugh's son Brock (5-10, 210), a junior, and senior Brennan Butz (6-3, 220) heading up the position.

Hereford did graduate the North County News Athlete of the Year, Austin Brown, who led the team in tackles (64) and finished second in sacks (6).

"Brock was our second leading tackler and Butz was our third leading tackler, so we have a good nucleus returning there," coach Turnbaugh said.

Turnbaugh also has high expectations for two other linebackers: senior Gavin Chiodi (5-11, 190) and junior Connor Williams (5-7, 160).

The line will feature seniors Patrick Weitzelberger (6-4, 245) and Gram Hensley (6-3, 240) and juniors Tristan Ferris (6-6, 240) and Amir Parker (5-10, 200).

Both Ferris and Parker were brought up from the JV.

Seniors Zach Sandusky (6-1, 170) and Patrick Elmore (6-0, 170) and two juniors elevated from the JV, Adam Cerebeli (5-9, 150) and Nick Salintino (5-8, 165), comprise the secondary.

The situation at quarterback isn't as clear. Seniors Jay Patti (6-3, 185) and Ryan Jones (6-2, 180) will both see significant playing time like last season.

Jones started nine games last year, but Turnbaugh frequently used Patti in the same game to run the triple-option offense.

"I guess I have a quarterback controversy just like they do up in New York with the Jets," Turnbaugh said. "It's a nice luxury to have two quality quarterbacks."

The Bulls will also be determined to run the ball with a staple of quality running backs, which include seniors Mike Swiger (5-11, 220), Jon Bauer (5-9, 170) and Andrew Fisher (5-10, 185).

The offensive line is another strength with seniors guard Butz and Cam Snyder (6-0, 200), senior tackles Chris Taurimo (6-0, 200) and Hensley and center Brock Turnbaugh.

Ferris and junior John Kurtz (6-4, 245) provide excellent depth.