The offseason is nearly over for high school football. The Calallen Wildcats return to action Friday night against Mercedes at Wildcat Stadium. The Tigers, a playoff team out of District 32-4A last season, return a seasoned group and will be a stern test for Calallen in the opener.

The returning strength for Mercedes will be on defense. With many of the defensive starters and contributors back from a season ago, Wildcats coach Phil Danaher knows they will provide good competition.

“Defensively, they’re very sound, very good defense,” he said. “The defensive front’s got good size, big strong kids up front. The linebackers are very active, and the secondary’s very quick. They’ve got an outstanding defense.”

The 6-foot, 265-pound Rick Hinojosa anchors the Tiger defense at nose tackle and will be joined on the line by Brandon Ayala. Roel Garcia returns to the secondary after nabbing eight interceptions a year ago.

It will be an early challenge for the 2013 Calallen offense, which is looking to improve over their performance in last year’s 9-3 season. Going into the year, offensive execution was a strong point of emphasis according to Danaher.

“In the two scrimmages, we executed pretty well,” Danaher said. “But that was under a controlled scrimmage; coaches are coaching. It’s different when the games start and you’re on the sideline. You’ve got to remember your assignments and your rules and everything, so we’ll have to wait and see how well we execute Friday night.”

Mercedes is one of three 2012 playoff teams that the Wildcats will face in their pre-district slate. The strength of schedule hopefully will pay dividends come district season. For now, Calallen will use the opener too see where they stand heading into the year.

“It’s your first ballgame, so it’s a good measuring stick,” Danaher said. “…It’s very important because you can’t win them all without winning the first one. You always want to start the year off with a victory.”