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Fall 2022 high school football preview: West Catholic Athletic League

WEST CATHOLIC ATHLETIC LEAGUE PREVIEW

(Predicted order of finish)

No. 1 SERRA

Coach: Patrick Walsh

Fall 2021 record: 11-2

What to expect: The Padres edged league rival St. Francis to capture the Central Coast Section Division I title last fall, an outcome that lifted the San Mateo school into the CIF Open Division state championship game for the first time. Serra lost badly in the state game to national No. 1 Mater Dei-Santa Ana, but it was still a historic season for Tom Brady’s alma mater nonetheless. What will the Padres do for an encore? They’ll know where they stand in Northern California after two games. Serra opens the season on Aug. 26 at Folsom and then travels to De La Salle for an ESPNU matchup on Sept. 2. If the Padres win both of those games, they might be on their way to another Open title game. Of course, that’s easier written than achieved. Walsh, the team’s longtime coach, likes what he has at the skill positions. WR/CB Joey Villaroman returns after missing last season with a knee injury suffered during the 2021 COVID spring season. “Huge potential,” Walsh said. Junior Joseph Bey, who has played on varsity since his freshman year, will lead the defensive secondary from a safety position and play running back. Jabari Mann and Danny Niu stand out as linebackers and also will play running back. Ryan Silver will anchor the lines, and Seamus Gilmartin will contribute at tight end and defensive end. Walsh, entering his 22nd season, said the challenge will be finding players to step up on the lines. Sam Goligoski could be a surprise as a defensive end, Walsh noted.

Season opener: Aug. 26 at Folsom, 7 p.m.

No. 2 ST. FRANCIS

Coach: Greg Calcagno

Fall 2021 record: 11-1

What to expect: For 11 games and 45-plus minutes in the 12th, St. Francis had a perfect season last fall. The Lancers ended De La Salle’s 30-year unbeaten streak against regional opponents. They rolled through the West Catholic Athletic League on their way to the league title. They won their first two CCS playoff games and were leading Serra down the stretch in the final. But a surreal finish remembered for gunshots fired in the parking lot late in the fourth quarter ended with Serra celebrating a 16-12 victory. St. Francis graduated much of its stout defense and record-setting running back Viliami Teu, the Bay Area News Group’s player of the year in 2021. But Calcagno, entering his 10th season, has another strong offensive line and a quarterback returning from injury who knows how to win a big game. The final pass Matthew Dougherty threw last season was the one to beat De La Salle. He’s back this fall. “Fully healthy and excited to see what he can do for us,” Calcagno said about the 6-6, 215-pound senior. OT Oliver Bari (6-4, 265) and C Alex Bobadilla (6-3, 275) are back on the line. S Keala Keanaaina is one of the few returning starters on defense. He also will play running back. Andrew Adkison is back at receiver and will play cornerback. The Lancers visit De La Salle on Sept. 9. Two weeks later, they play host to Serra in a league opener. They’ll know a lot more about themselves after those games.

Season opener: Aug. 26 vs. Central Catholic-Modesto, 7 p.m.

No. 3 BELLARMINE

Coach: Jalal Beauchman

Fall 2021 record: 8-4

What to expect: The Bells are heading in the right direction under coach Jalal Beauchman, who enters his second fall season and third overall. Last year, Bellarmine was an exciting and vastly improved team that reached the semifinals of the CCS Division I playoffs. But in games against the WCAL’s top teams, Serra and St. Francis, Bellarmine remained several steps behind. Maybe that will change this fall as the storied San Jose program returns RB Ben Pfaff, along with lineman Jae’Von Reels and LB Brandon Broch to the defense. Phaff was the WCAL’s junior of the year last season. Broch deflected the pass at the line of scrimmage that Thomas Di Vittorio intercepted and returned 94 yards for a TD to dramatically beat Los Gatos in the CCS playoffs. If Broch isn’t the best LB in the CCS, Beauchman believes he’s in the neighborhood. Philip Miller will be counted on to cover in the defensive secondary and catch passes at wide receiver. Senior Nate Escalada and junior Parker Threatt, both 6-foot-1 and 180 pounds, are competing to play quarterback. The Bells play three non-league road games — against Menlo-Atherton, San Leandro and MyClymonds — before starting WCAL play.

Season opener: Aug. 27 at Menlo-Atherton, 2 p.m.

No. 4 ST. IGNATIUS

Coach: John Regalia

Fall 2021 record: 5-7

What to expect: In the season before the pandemic, St. Ignatius shared the WCAL title with Serra and Valley Christian. The Wildcats followed that up with a 3-1 record in the COVID spring season in 2021 and a 5-7 mark last fall that ended with a loss to Wilcox in the CCS Division II playoffs. Regalia, now in his 12th season as the program’s head coach, said this year’s team “brings a great competitive drive and mindset to the work and preparation we have put in so far this offseason. The excitement is high as we look to put that into action this fall season.” Senior QB Davin McAndrews is back after making an impact down the stretch last season. “Dynamic, versatile athlete that has gained command of the offensive system,” Regalia said. Linemen Santino Franco and John O’Brien will be responsible for protecting McAndrews and opening holes for the runners. Franco is a three-year starter on offense and defense. OLB/TE Luke Leupold is a returning all-WCAL player, as is WR/DB Gus Parker. The San Francisco school has added lights to its stadium, which the Wildcats will debut on opening night against Palo Alto.

Season opener: Aug. 26 vs. Palo Alto, 7 p.m. 

No. 5 ARCHBISHOP RIORDAN

Coach: Adhir Ravipati

Fall 2021 record: 5-5

What to expect: The last time we saw Adhir Ravipati as a head coach on a high school sideline, he was celebrating a state championship with Menlo-Atherton. That was in 2018. Four years later, he has taken over the program at Riordan, which hasn’t finished above .500 since going 9-4 and reaching a CCS final in 2015. Last fall, the Crusaders were 5-5 but 2-5 in the WCAL. Ravipati notes that the senior class, offensive line and athletic skill-position players are the team’s strengths. Depth at the skill positions and the first year in a new system and culture are the weaknesses, the coach added. The talent starts with DL Isiah Chala, a 6-5, 260-pound three-star senior who has an offer from Cal. Senior WR/DB Zachary Jones, a preseason all-Bay Area News Group pick, is among the region’s fastest players, Ravipati said. The coach added that senior RB/WR/DB Javius Redding will be one of the area’s best players and a contender for WCAL player of the year. “Electric playmaker on offense and elite cover skills/open field tackling ability on defense,” Ravipati said. Freshman QB Mike Mitchell Jr. could be a breakout star, and sophomore OL Losipini Tupou is a returning starter with an offer from San Jose State.

Season opener: Aug. 27 vs. Granada, 2 p.m.

No. 6 VALLEY CHRISTIAN

Coach: Mike Machado

Fall 2021 record: 6-5

What to expect: The perennial WCAL contender could take a few steps back this season. Five-star senior receiver Jurrion Dickey transferred to Menlo-Atherton, and QB Jakson Berman, who received first-team all-Bay Area News Group honors after accounting for 40 touchdowns last season, has graduated. Coupled with the fact Valley Christian didn’t have a JV team last fall after a drop in participation numbers brought on by the pandemic, the Warriors could be in for a rare rebuilding year under longtime coach Mike Machado, whose demeanor remains positive. “To feel sorry for yourself would be inappropriate,” the coach said. Valley has only seven seniors on its roster. The team will be “very young and inexperienced,” Machado noted, adding that he has a “great group of young men.” Senior TE/DE Tyler Bourland is a three-star prospect with offers from Nevada and Northern Colorado. The Warriors also will count on a trio of juniors: OL/DL Rayne Mayo, WR Kai Hamilton and halfback Uchenna Eke. OL/DL Champ Taulealea (6-4, 325) is a talented sophomore and college prospect.

Season opener: Aug. 26 vs. Wilcox, 7 p.m. 

No. 7 SACRED HEART CATHEDRAL

Coach: Antoine Evans

Fall 2021 record: 8-7

What to expect: Antoine Evans has taken over from Barry McLaughlin, who stepped down after leading the San Francisco school to a Division 4-A state championship. The Fightin’ Irish went 3-7 in the regular season last fall, then won five consecutive playoff games to capture section, regional and state titles. LB/RB Jerry Mixon (6-3, 230) is among the returning standouts. He recently committed to the University of Oregon. Senior OLB/WR RL Miller is an Arizona State commit. “At 6-4 with hands it’s going to be very hard for opposing defensive to stop him,” Evans said. Senior Jordan Solofa-Fatu and junior Benjamin Hatch anchor the offensive and defensive lines, and Isaiah Keishk is a three-year starter at wide receiver.

Season opener: Aug. 26 at Sacred Heart Prep, 7 p.m.

No. 8 ARCHBISHOP MITTY

Coach: Danny Sullivan

Fall 2021 record: 1-9

What to expect: Mitty could be better than this projection. The Monarchs return a roster of 70-plus players, including nearly 40 who have been on the varsity team since the spring 2021 COVID season. ” A successful summer of workouts, 7-on-7, and line work has created a belief that things will be different in 2022,” coach Danny Sullivan said. The Monarchs went 0-7 in WCAL play last fall and were 0-3 in the COVID season, all against WCAL opponents. Senior WR Danny Scudero could help flip the script. “He is a matchup nightmare who runs a 4.42 (40-yard dash) and is able to create space in the passing game,” Sullivan said. Senior Wills Towers (6-3, 210) returns as the starting quarterback. He will be surrounded by Scudero, senior RB/DB Justice Toavalu and senior WR Ben Kim. Senior Michael Forney will be a presence on the offensive and defensive lines.

Season opener: Aug. 26 vs. Palma at Foothill College, 7 p.m.

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