Nine starters return on defense for the Wildcats, headed by senior middle linebacker Richard Krottmayer. Although certainly not big by football standards at 5-foot-9 and 200 pounds, Krottmayer anchors a defense that stands much taller than its physical numbers indicate.
With a defensive front including tackles Charlie Wallace (5-8, 190) and Jason Von Moos (5-10, 195) and Krottmayer behind them, Paloma Valley has a formidable defense that is deceivingly effective.
"Krottmayer is not tremendously huge, but he's solid," Esposito said. "Then people look at our defensive tackles and say, 'Are you serious?' They may be undersized, but they're very good. Up front, we're tougher than nails."
Although the Wildcats should be favored in Friday's 7 p.m. game against a San Bernardino team that was 0-10 last year, Esposito knows the team must fulfill its potential this year to compete against the likes of CIF finalist and crosstown rival Heritage, Elsinore and Temescal Canyon in the Sunbelt League.
In addition to the defense, Esposito will call on a high-powered spread offense that returns six starters, including junior quarterback Brent Boehm. Taking over the starter's role early last season, Boehm finished with 1,698 yards and 14 touchdowns passing.
When the Wildcats run the ball, they usually hand it to David Solis, a 5-10, 180-pound senior who rushed for 441 yards and 8 touchdowns last year even though he played much of the season with a high ankle sprain.
Friday night's game is Middle School Night. Students from Menifee area middle schools showing student ID will be admitted free.
Check Menifee 24/7 Saturday morning for a recap of the opening game.
Tomorrow: A preview of Heritage High School's football season.