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If the Poway Titans repeat as Division I champions, it will be with a host of new faces. Poway lost 17 starters to graduation from last year’s undefeated team.

“What we’ve told them early on is that we’ve got a big target on our backs and we have got to work hard,” said Poway head coach Damian Gonzalez. “We lost 34 seniors from last year, so that’s going to be a big change. We have a lot of new guys competing for jobs.”

Gonzalez said that this loss will hit the defense the most, especially the defensive backfield. He said he expects senior cornerback Brett Thomas and junior defensive back Michael Sowadski to provide leadership in the secondary.

In addition to the loss of personnel, the Titans will have to carry around the label of defending champs. Gonzalez said he felt the target even during the summer.

"It started in passing league this summer,” Gonzalez said. “Teams were going against us and you could hear them saying, ‘Hey we got to get after these guys; they’re the No. 1 team to beat.’ So there’s definitely a target.”

Senior linebacker and three-year started Dylan Schneider agreed with his coach.

“Every team wants to come out and hit you because you are the No. 1 team,” Schneider said.

Poway will play this season in a redesigned Palomar League that features CIF finalist Rancho Buena Vista, perennial power Carlsbad and backyard rival Rancho Bernardo.

“It’s definitely rough. It’s a lot tougher than it was last year,” said lineman Garrett Trainor. “We lost some of the rivalries we had but we are going to get some new rivalries.”

“The programs we are going to be facing are some tough teams with a lot of history and tradition, and we have our work cut out for us,” Gonzalez said.

Gonzalez said the first goal of this year’s team is to win the Palomar League and the second is to repeat as section champs. He said the success of this young squad will depend on the coaching staff.

“We have a very young team, so we have to do our jobs as coaches and get them prepared,” Gonzalez said. “I can’t put the blame on their inexperience; we just have to coach them up.”

Poway opens the season on the road at Scripps Ranch on Sept. 5. Their home opener is Sept. 12 against Orange County foe Santa Margarita.

For more San Diego high school football, visit the High School Red Zone at www.sdreader.com/football.

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