When K'Ren Spain won the starting quarterback job out of summer camp, he inherited some formidable challenges.
Spain faced the burden of taking over the highest profile position on a team that has won three straight Peninsula Athletic League Bay championships.
He had to take over a pivotal position at which he had very little varsity experience and run an offense hammered by graduation losses.
And he had to replace Chris Forbes, one of the Tigers most talented quarterbacks in years, who now plays at perennial junior college power City College of San Francisco.
"What we try to do is not mention Chris (Forbes) and put that burden on him," Terra Nova coach Bill Gray said.
"We don't need him to play like Chris, we need him to play like K'ren."
Spain hasn't disappointed.
After some early season growing pains, he's made an easy transition to his new role.
Spain has thrown for 971 yards and six touchdowns, and rushed for 422 yards and five scores through five games (Terra Nova is 2-3).
He's completed 60 percent of his passes (99 for 165). Four of his eight interceptions on the year came in a disastrous first half of a 21-3 victory over Salinas on Sept. 21.
"He's a very effective passer and he's also a very good runner," Gray said.
Spain's development is especially impressive considering he doesn't have the prototypical quarterback's body (he's 5-foot-10), and he's working amid less than ideal conditions.
"He's dealing with a group of very young and very inexperienced wide receivers and he's dealing with an offensive line that only returned two players so it isn't just him" that has experienced growing pains, Gray said.
"It's a process and we're evolving through that process and we're getting better every week."
Spain transitioned to quarterback after playing linebacker last season. He was the team's second leading tackler with 108.
He spelled an injured Forbes at quarterback one game last year (he was 27-for-34 passing for 360 yards with three touchdowns and one interception in a 41-8 PAL Bay victory over Half Moon Bay).
But it was on defense that Spain established his leadership credentials.
"He's always been a leader," Gray said. "Last year when he was playing defense he was one of our better defensive players. For him it's not a problem, he's always been a leader."
Spain had his best game in Terra Nova's 34-28 nonleague loss to heavily favored Inderkum on Sept. 28 in which he was 31-for-51 passing for 266 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions.
His development, in many ways, mirrors the development of a young Tigers team that Gray says has shown steady progress each week.
"We're a work in progress and we'll continue to be a work in progress all year long," Gray said.
"We hope that we've matured and grown as a team so that we can win our fourth league championship in a row."
Terra Nova, which is coming off a bye week, opens PAL Bay play against Sacred Heart Prep at home on Friday at 7 p.m.
All indications point to SHP (5-0, 1-0) being a dramatically improved team from last year, when the Gators finished third in league.
The Gators have outscored their opponents by a combined 180-9. They're coming off an impressive 10-0 PAL Bay opening victory over Burlingame that was their third consecutive shutout. They've allowed just three points over their last four games and haven't given up a touchdown since the first quarter of their season-opening 31-6 victory over Branham on Aug. 31.
SHP seldom passes but runs a fierce ground game.
Ryan Gaertner averages 79 rushing yards and leads the Gators with nine touchdowns.
Terra Nova defeated SHP 44-30 last season.
Eagles land first win:
Seeking its first win of the season, Alma Heights Christian left nothing to chance as the Eagles built an early lead and never looked back in a 56-24 trouncing of El Sobrante Christian.
Eagles quarterback Joshua Cayetano was 16-for-22 passing for 285 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions.
Gabe Bautista rushed for 67 yards and two touchdowns on 12 carries and had seven receptions for 158 yards including a 57-yard scoring catch. He also contributed eight tackles.
Moises Telleria led the Eagles defensively with 10 tackles and one sack.
Eagles spikers stay on top:
Alma Heights Christian continued its domination of Private School North League play with a decisive 3-0 (25-17, 25-20, 25-18) victory over Jewish Community on Oct. 4.
Jade Tu led the Eagles with 11 kills and Keola Lamadora contributed 16 assists.
The victory followed a 3-0 (25-21, 25-18, 25-16) league win against Summit Prep in which Tu led the Eagles with 11 kills and Lamadora had 19 assists.
AHC (9-4, 5-0) is seeking its second consecutive league title.