One thing the region's three community college football teams have in common as the season kicks off today is uncertainty.
All three American River, Sacramento City and Sierra expect to compete for a conference championship and reach a bowl game.
The pecking order starts with ARC, which is ranked ninth in the nation by JCGridiron.com, though that could be based more on reputation than potential. The Beavers have just 18 players returning from from an 8-3 team that lost to San Francisco City College in the Northern California championship bowl game.
Top players for veteran coach Jerry Haflich include returning wide receivers Tyler Trosin (Folsom) and Ference Lang (Grant) and safety James Sample (Grant), in his first season with the Beavers after playing at the University of Washington.
The Beavers are 29-4 in the past three seasons under Haflich, and six players from the 2012 team went to BCS conference programs.
"It's an honor," Haflich said of the national poll ranking. "But it's built on the last couple of years. We've worked really hard. The athletes and the coaches have worked really hard."
Another strong recruiting class for ARC includes Isaiah Williams, The Bee's 2012 first-team All-Metro running back at Burbank, and defensive back Ethan Clark, who played for the University of San Diego after starring at Monterey Trail High School.
At Sac City, Dannie Walker said he is excited about his freshman class that includes quarterback Taylor Laird from Oakmont, who will start against Sierra in today's opener at Hughes Stadium.
"We're young," Walker said. "I'm hoping they will compete. They have bought into the system and the culture. But as far as the play and athleticism, we have guys that can step up."
New Sierra coach Ben Noonan, hired in the spring to replace successful and popular Jeff Tisdel, scrambled to put together a roster. Noonan will rely on returning sophomores such as defensive lineman Erik McKinnon (Ponderosa), defensive backs Zack Starnes (Woodland) and Michael Saulter (Del Campo) and offensive lineman Jordan Finley (River Valley).
"They've done a good job being leaders," Noonan said. "They are key guys and have been the glue for us."
Noonan coached four years as offensive coordinator at Citrus College in Southern California, so he understands what recruiting can do for a two-year college program, and he knows there are plenty of talented players in Placer County.
"It's real important to us," Noonan said. "We want members of our community on this football team."
The three coaches anticipate running into each other on the recruiting trail, including during Friday night high school games.
"Dannie is such a good guy," Haflich said. "I got to know Ben. He's a straight shooter. I think it's nice to go build a rivalry with coaches."
Follow Trevor Horn on Twitter @trevhorn.