Last season with no seniors on its squad and COVID-19 reducing most teams’ schedules to just a handful of games, the Liberty Ranch Hawks found themselves in a rebuilding year.

This season, just four months after the end of their 2021 campaign, the Hawks’ 23 returning players and seven new players are looking to take advantage of the full, 10-game schedule of the 2021-22 season, which starts Friday.

The Hawks hosted a scrimmage two weeks ago against Cordova in preparation, and varsity assistant coach Warren Schroeder said the night showed positive results thanks to the Warriors’ summer workouts.

“Last week’s scrimmage was very productive. I felt like both teams got a lot of work in and were able to work on special teams and offense and defense so I think a lot of the kids were able to show how much they’ve grown in the off-season,” Schroeder said.

The Hawks start their season against Natomas on the road before continuing the non-league portion of their year against Linden on Sept. 3, Bear River at home Sept. 10, Tokay and returning to the road against Rio Linda.

They’ll open the Sierra Valley Conference season at home against Rosemont Oct. 1 before playing back-to-back away games and finishing the regular season with a home game against El Dorado before going across town to play the Dairy Bowl with Galt.

Over the summer, the Hawks worked on multiple goals that started just months after the end of the spring season.

“The summer was all about making sure the boys got in shape. We were able to lift in the weight room. We were also able to get out and introduce some of the schemes on both sides of the ball but it was mostly about deciding and knowing who was going to show up for the season on both the varsity and JV teams,” Schroeder said.

With sports starting up in spring of 2021 instead of fall 2020 due to health guidelines related to the pandemic, the summer featured some new territory for the Hawks.

“It was still a big unknown in June about coming off the COVID season. The interesting thing about this particular summer is it felt like we had just gotten done. We had never had that situation before. We had just wrapped up in April and a little over a month later, we’re going again,” Schroeder said.

As the Hawks prepare for Friday’s game against the Nighthawks, who went 4-2 last season, playing a complete schedule is one of the goals they hope to conquer this year.

“It’s strange but it feels good. I think any coach would tell you that although we were grateful to have some semblance of a season in the spring, to have a full season feels a lot better,” Schroeder said. “I think the kids are excited, the coaches are excited; although, of course, we don’t know week to week what the Delta variant is going to bring and what situations it’s going to bring; to have 10 games on the schedule feels a lot more exciting for everybody.”