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Unfamiliar opponents await California in Black Hills

| Thursday, Aug. 23, 2012, 7:06 p.m.
California quarterback Malik Jackson takes part in a passing camp practice on July 17, 2012 at California High School in California. Eric Schmadel | Tribune-Review
California quarterback Malik Jackson takes part in a passing camp practice on July 17, 2012 at California High School in California. Eric Schmadel | Tribune-Review
California linebackers Cory Adams and Nathan Harris (right) take part in a passing camp practice on July 17, 2012 at California High School in California. Eric Schmadel | Tribune-Review

It would be understandable for California Trojans head coach Brady Barbero and his staff to be concerned as they prepare for their 2012 season.

After all, they lost eight offensive starters to graduation from last year's team, there are only a handful of seniors on this year's squad, and they have been moved to the stacked Black Hills Conference.

But if anyone is looking for excuses or complaints, they will have to look elsewhere as Barbero and the Trojans are going to fight as if their backs are against the wall.

“We lost a big senior class, but any time that happens, you look for new talent,” Barbero said. “It is the coaching staff's job to find the new players.

“We have a talented group coming up and it helps that we open against a familiar opponent.”

The Trojans open at longtime rival Monessen, the only other former Tri-County South team moved into the loaded Black Hills Conference.

“Monessen is the only team we know in the conference, and the kids always get excited to play them,” Barbero said. “A lot of the kids know each other, so it is natural to get up for each other.”

As far as the Trojans being moved into the loaded ten-team Black Hills, Barbero knows that his team can't have any off nights.

“Every win and loss counts, and there will not be any easy games,” Barbero said. “We have to treat every game like a playoff game, that's for sure.”

At the top of the conference is Clairton, the four-time defending WPIAL champion, three-time defending PIAA champion, and winners of a WPIAL record 47 straight games.

“We have to be prepared, but it will be a fun challenge in this conference,” Barbero said. “It is definitely a tough conference.”

The Trojans will have eight new starters on offense, and while still young, they started six sophomores on defense last year.

Malik Jackson will start at quarterback, and Nathan Harris is a receiver.

“This senior class has always had low numbers, but the junior class is big,” Barbero said.

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