GLENDALE — With a league that boasts the likes of Gardena Serra, which won the CIF Southern Section Western Division title and was a state finalist, and Chaminade, which advanced to the division's semifinal round, among its hierarchy, receiving any accolades as they relate to the Mission League is quite an honor.
Thus, when St. Francis High senior offensive tackle Patrick Carroll was voted the All-Mission League Most Valuable Lineman, he was plenty pleased.
"I was surprised by it," said Carroll, who missed a handful of games, including the league opener against Serra due to a right-knee injury. "I didn't think I was gonna get it, I thought I was gonna get all-league, but not that. So I was pretty stoked."
In addition to Carroll, eight Golden Knights received first-team honors after St. Francis finished its season at 6-5 overall and 3-2 in league for a third-place finish. Six St. Francis players picked up second-team honors, as well.
Carroll was the biggest honoree, literally and figuratively.
Though Carroll was surprised at the recognition he got, as he thought missing a league game would hinder his chances, St. Francis Coach Jim Bonds said the three-year, all-league standout more than deserved the honor.
"It's even more impressive cause he missed a league game," said Bonds, whose cavalcade of first-teamers consisted of quarterback Brett Nelson, receiver Travis Talianko, running back Austin De Los Santos, center Kristion Grbavac, defensive end Michael Singelyn, linebacker Ryan McAleenan, defensive back Parker Nieves and punter Ian Sternau. "It kinda culminated the three years that he's sacrificed and put out for our football program. I think he's one heckuva football player."
The 6-foot-5, 280-pound Carroll, who's currently being recruited by the likes of Northern Arizona University, UNLV, Oregon State and Washington State, also made the move from left tackle to right tackle, in large part to accommodate his injury. It was a move Carroll took to quickly, though.
"It was a pretty quick fix for me," said Carroll, who played on the right side as a sophomore and practiced on both ends during the preseason.
Though he was dominant physically, Carroll's ability to adjust to the switch was likely made easier by his aptitude for the cerebral aspects of the game.
"The thing I'll miss most about Patrick is his intelligence on the field," Bonds said. "He could tell everybody on the line what to do.
"I'm gonna miss his leadership, too."
In Carroll's absence, Grbavac, a junior, stepped up as the leader of the offensive line, which helped attribute to a standout year, along with being a key aspect of the St. Francis shotgun offense and a stellar blocker with a mean streak.
"When I went down, he took that leadership role and stepped up," Carroll said. "Well-deserved all-league [for him]."
Added Bonds of Grbavac, who's the team's strongest player: "He's got a meanness on the field, but he's the nicest kid off of it. … He likes to finish blocks, he likes to pancake guys."
The leader of the offense as a whole, however, was undoubtedly Nelson, who bided his time behind Justin Posthuma as a junior before exploding onto the scene as a senior.
"He was amazing this year," said Carroll of the strong-armed lefty.
Nelson threw for 28 touchdowns to just eight interceptions, completing 168 of 292 passes for 2,765 yards. He also added four touchdowns rushing.
Talianko, a junior, proved to be Nelson's No. 1 target, putting up some eye-popping offensive numbers.
He hauled in 17 touchdowns on 59 receptions for 946 yards receiving.
"The biggest thing about his numbers is … it was obvious he was our go-to guy and he still did all that," Bonds said. "He still made all those catches. He's a very good football player."
While Talianko was a proven commodity after a standout sophomore season, De Los Santos wasn't even a starter during the first part of his junior campaign to impress the league's coaches.
"Most of his numbers, I'd say, came on when we started league," said Bonds of De Los Santos, who tallied 565 yards and five touchdowns in 115 carries and also hauled in 19 catches for 271 yards and a score receiving. "He did a lot of great things."
Singelyn did a lot of things seemingly every play, as the senior was undersized for a defensive end at 5-foot-11 and roughly 185 pounds, but had a motor that rarely waned in tallying a team-high six sacks to go with 41 tackles.
"He didn't stop and he was a pest to other tackles," Bonds said. "His motor is what got it for him. He's just a great high school football player."
McAleenan, a junior, had a team-high 83 tackles to follow up a solid sophomore season.
"He had another good year and the best thing is he's only a junior," Bonds said.
Like McAleenan, Nieves is a junior, who moved from safety to cornerback and notched 46 tackles, three interceptions and four forced fumbles.
"He was our most consistent corner," Bonds said. "He's just a very coachable kid."
As for Sternau, he averaged nearly 36 yards per punt, but it was truly his kicking that made it necessary for the league's coaches to find a spot for him on the first team. He had touchbacks on 33 of 43 kickoffs and had nine field goals, including a 48-yarder.
"I think he was the best kicker in our league," Bonds said.
Junior Zach George moved from right guard to left tackle, while junior Joe Marrone was a stalwart at left guard. The two joined Grbavac and Carroll in giving the Knights four all-league offensive linemen thanks to their second-team nods.
Receiver Ian Hamilton, a senior, was a second-team pick after catching 28 balls for 598 yards and five touchdowns.
Michael Melnick, one of the team's senior tri-captains with Carroll and Nelson, was a second-team running back pick after notching 427 yards rushing in 85 carries.
On defense, junior Luke Anderson was a second-team pick with 82 tackles and three sacks at linebacker, while senior Ryan Jenkins was a second-team defensive back selection. He had 43 tackles and 11 passes defensed.