Expectations for the St. Francis High football team are high, like the passes John Sciarra lofts downfield, over the shoulders of his receivers.
And the Golden Knights are a close-knit group, one that players describe as "tight."
Just like one of Sciarra's spirals Friday during a 13-7 victory over Littlerock in a Cal Lutheran passing tournament pool-play game.
Sciarra, the Golden Knights' 16-year-old junior quarterback, shares the name of his father, the former UCLA quarterback who was the most valuable player of the 1976 Rose Bowl and a professional in the NFL and Canada.
Sciarra has benefited from his father's experience. Since he began playing tackle football on the St. Francis freshman team, he has been able to seek the advice of his father.
"I don't try to compare myself to him at all," Sciarra said. "I mean, he was a great player, but he has his life and I have mine.
"But the great thing about having my dad around is that he did have a lot of experience. I can go to him when I need to, and he helps and supports me."
The senior-dominated Golden Knights hope to follow in the footsteps of its junior leader the way Sciarra has been following in his father's.
"This should be one of the best, if not the best, team that I've had at St. Francis," said Coach Bill Redell, who enters his seventh season this fall.
"And John's going to be good. He's going to be one of the best quarterbacks in the region. He's much more confident in himself this year. He's got good leadership ability, and I think he already throws better than his father did."
Sciarra showed off a strong right arm and an ability to move the Golden Knights' offense Friday.
Sciarra, second team All-Mission League last year and an all-state sophomore selection by Cal-Hi sports, also took command of the Golden Knights before the start of the game, shouting instructions to receivers in warm-ups and gathering his teammates together just before game time.
"Last year was tough but fun," Sciarra said. "I'm glad I played varsity last year because now I feel like I have experience, and that's only going to help me and the team this year."
As a sophomore, Sciarra was 108 of 203 passing, 53.2%, for 1,513 yards. He threw 14 touchdowns and had 15 passes intercepted.
St. Francis compiled a 6-6 record, falling in the second round of the Southern Section Division III playoffs to eventual-champion Hart, as Sciarra adjusted to his first varsity season.
"He's picked up a lot since then," said Mark Garcia, a senior receiver. "He got that year of experience and we've learned to work together as a team. Our team's so tight, and we're expecting a lot."
The St. Francis defense, which gave up 299.9 yards per game last year, will need to to improve.
The Golden Knights are confident. The seniors on the squad went 10-0 as freshmen, and 9-1 as sophomores on the junior varsity.
With the year of varsity experience for that senior group and Sciarra, the Golden Knights, who gained 300 yards a game last year, appear ready for a breakout season. They have won the Whittier College passing tournament and are 14-4 in summer-league games.
"The players had to build up to this and [the coaches] had to build up, too," Redell said.
Sciarra should benefit from the play of an experienced receiving corps that includes Garcia and his twin, Kenny, and tight end Tyler Terrazone.
Kenny Garcia made a team-high 25 catches for 420 yards and a touchdown in 1998 and Mark Garcia had 17 receptions for 233 yards and two scores. Terrazone averaged a team-best 22.9 yards per catch on nine receptions for 206 yards and three touchdowns.
Scott Ray is expected to have an expanded role after making seven catches for 102 yards last year.
"Luckily, we have a lot of good players on this team," Sciarra said. "We have a bunch of talented players, and if we put our talent together, we should do pretty well."