Last season the Orange County Fighting Hornets made the jump up to Group AAA after they had just barely gone over the Group AA total student limit.
Head coach John Kayajanian says it took the team a while to adjust to the change.
"Our numbers were down," he said. "We had 28 players playing varsity football. We had some injuries and we had some things go wrong."
The Hornets were simply outnumbered every time they stepped on the field.
Senior outside linebacker Marquis Maddox said, "The difference was how many players they had on their team. Most of the other players didn't play both ways like ours."
It wasn't just a numbers game, though. The players agree there was also an issue with the team's mindset.
"People thought we were going to lose before the game even started," said senior wide receiver Cameron Rickett. "It's hard to win like that, with everybody looking down on us. Hopefully, this year will be different."
The Fighting Hornets are still the smallest team in their district. But in the summer and the last few weeks in camp, they've been working to change their attitude and approach.
Rickett said, "We practice harder, execute, and just go out there with heart."
Kayajanian added, "We've done a better job in the off-season and in the weight room.
People are staying together, hanging out together, and working together. They're going to need that in tough times."
Heading into their second season in Group AAA, Kayajanian says he expects improvement, and he knows everyone in Orange County expects improvement as well.
"I've been in Orange County for 34 years. They want to see a good product, and it's my job, our job, to put a good product on the field. The kids are working hard for that."