Robert Fish believes his Cathedral High football team will be about as competitive in the Santa Fe League as a piece of live bait dropped into a tank of feeding sharks.
“We’re going to try not to get annihilated,” Fish said.
Cathedral graduated it’s entire defensive line, which could make for a long season in a strong Sante Fe League.
St. Genevieve and Chaminade are ranked No. 10 and 11 respectively in the Southern Section preseason poll. The league has also added an even stronger Harvard team, rated No. 4 with 14 starters returning from a team that lost the Desert-Mountain Conference championship game.
Cathedral, however, will probably not be the only carcass dispensed with after the murky waters have cleared. Pater Noster and Salesian could also have trouble staying among the leaders.
Harvard’s Dominic Sandifer is one of the reasons why the Saracens are favored to win the league. Sandifer, an All-Southern Section kicker last season, will also start at tailback and safety. Sandifer made 14 of 19 attempts last season, including a 52-yard field goal in the conference championship game.
“Dominic probably won four games for us last year,” Thran said. “He won one playoff game by himself (Yucaipa 23-3). Without putting a lot of pressure on him, we expect a lot out of him this year. He kicked three field goal past 50 yards last year. We think right now he’s a major-college kicker.”
St. Genevieve and Chaminade, which finished first and second in the league last season, graduated several players. Nevertheless, Thran believes they are the teams to beat.
“Lindon Crow (St. Genevieve) gets about as much out of his kids as any coach around,” Thran said. “Chaminade had a strong sophomore group last year. They’re physically strong and well-coached.”
St. Genevieve has won four consecutive league titles, but has only 10 returning lettermen. With quarterback Andy Sherman, wide receiver Steve Escovar and running back Jeff De La Cruz graduated and the addition of Harvard, the Valiants course for a fifth title has a new obstacle.
“Personnel-wise, we’re pretty even but, they (the other league teams) have a little more experience,” St. Genevieve’s Crow said. “We can’t afford to make mistakes.”
Dion Contrearas will start at quarterback for the Valiants. Wide receiver Mark Colon and tailback Frank Aguirre are solid offensive threats while all-league center Tony De Santis will return to the line. Jack Leighton and Marc Panneton are returner on the defensive line, which allowed only an average of 162 yards per game last season.
Chaminade, despite its own losses to graduation, will still figure prominently in this season’s race.
The Eagles, traditionally a running team, will work out of the I-formation with Troy Kirk (5-10, 190), Jonas Escalera (5-8, 155) and sophomore Sean Burwell (6-1, 170) in the backfield. Dave Morrison, who led the junior varsity to a league championship last season, will start at quarterback, with Robert Bae and Steve Orr at wide receivers.
“We have good skill people and good speed but there are a lot of questions left to be answered,” Chaminade Coach Rich Montanio said. “Dave has gained a lot of experience. He can throw the long ball. Hopefully his experience in reading defenses will help him out.
“Last year we had to run the ball so much,” Montanio said. “We were too predictable. This year we’ll be able to balance it out with the pass. But, injuries are critical for us because so many people going both ways.”
Bell-Jeff will be one of the few teams with a returning quarterback. Keith Fitzgerald was an all-league selection last season completing 42.7% of his passes while throwing for 1,221 yards and 10 touchdowns. Tom Ressler, will start on the defensive line after missing several games with a hip injury last season. Other preseason injuries to cornerback Paul Perkins (knee) and Amrheim (shoulder) could be a factor this season.
“I think anybody you talk to would pick them (Harvard),” Bell-Jeff Coach Doug Woodlief said. “But, St. Genevieve has never lost a league game. There are a number of teams that could step up. You can’t forsee injuries and ineligibilities.”