DUBLIN - Tolar got the better of Dublin in both teams' final preseason scrimmage at Memorial Stadium, but nobody left the event feeling as if the Lions were the same team that went 0-10 last fall.

"I sure hope they didn't feel that way," said first-year Dublin head coach Bob Cervetto. "These kids are working hard and they played hard (Thursday). I can see, and I think they can see, and I hope everyone who was out there watching could see, that they're getting better every day they step out on the grass and go to work."

The Lion defense routinely stopped Tolar a few plays at a time, only to watch the Rattlers break a long run.

"It's an assignment here and there, but we're getting closer and closer," said Cervetto, whose defense continually had seven or eight players around the ball. "The good thing is, this last week they've really been flying to the ball, and that's a good way to start the year."

The Lions weren't able to get into the end zone offensively for the second straight week - they scrimmaged Meridian the previous Saturday - but came close a couple times, especially when senior Hunter Turner was tripped up from behind after a 27-yard pass from Dirk DeVries.

Turner's presence on the gridiron has been one of the pleasant surprises for the Lions. He's a basketball standout who has not previously played football.

"Hunter's a great joy to have out here. He has great persona, he hustles everywhere he goes and everybody likes him because he's a great kid," Cervetto said. "He's so coachable and works so hard every play, and other kids want to follow that. Kids like Hunter make coaching fun."

Hitting Turner on the big pass was first-team quarterback Dirk DeVries, who looked to have Dublin headed toward the end zone on another drive until a controversial incomplete pass call on a play near Dublin's sideline stalled the effort.

"Dirk made a few heady moves last night. He's starting to have a little field vision," Cervetto said of the sophomore, whose older brother Ted was part of Dublin's last playoff team and last to finish with a winning record in 2003. "And the best thing is, he's starting to understand some things about leadership. He's only going to get better."

So, it seems, is Dublin.

"It's one step at a time," said Cervetto. "The next step is getting ready for Hico, and they'll be a tough bunch."

Dublin and Hico kickoff the area's 2011 football season with a special Thursday night opener at Tarleton Memorial Stadium.