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St. James Sharks

When Billy Hurston was named the first head coach at St. James, he preached patience, asking that his coaching efforts go unjudged until his fifth season.

He knew it would be that long to build a solid football foundation after the school's opening. Now, with his deadline looming, the fifth-year coach believes his program is moving closer to equal footing.

``It takes time to build a program,'' said Hurston, whose program now includes more than 80 players. ``I'm excited where we are with facilities, considering the few victories we've had. To make the playoffs [in 2006] is something we can build on. We've played some schools tough, but now it's time to put up.

``I think you'll see a good football team this year from being in the weight room last year. We're big enough to compete. We've got more speed than we've ever had.''

With 24 seniors _ some of them didn't play in 2007 after contributing during 2006's playoff run _ the Sharks are more experienced and tired of underachieving.

``We've worked a lot harder than we ever had before and we're a lot more dedicated,'' senior linebacker Gene Maruca said. ``We've seen a team that won, we've seen a team that did horrible and we saw last year, which was really disappointing for us.''

The Sharks will rely on their defense, which, at least on paper, looks like one of the best in the school's history. The offense is a work in progress and probably will be for the first few weeks of the season.

But that doesn't concern Hurston, because he knows he'll have a more disciplined and focused team than he did in 2007.

``They know we are ready to win,'' he said of his players. ``It's a different atmosphere. [The seniors] have created that. It was disappointing last year. We should have won three more games, but without discipline you're going to lose the close ones. We didn't have that last year.''