GLENDALE — Along its own path to the CIF Southern Section Western Division playoffs, the St. Francis High football team took on several of the division's eventual top playoff seeds and, by the end of its 6-5 season, had faced them all.
While the Golden Knights didn't win any of those matchups against Paso Robles, Mission League foes Gardena Serra and Chaminade or first-round playoff opponent Compton Dominguez, their competitive play against those formidable squads no doubt left a big impression on other coaches in the division.
In the All-CIF football picks released by the CIF Southern Section office on Thursday, the Golden Knights were well-represented by first-team selections Travis Talianko, Patrick Carroll and Ian Sternau and second-teamers Brett Nelson and Parker Nieves.
Selected to the first team as a wide receiver, Talianko, a junior, was the Golden Knights' unquestioned go-to wideout and lived up to that weighty responsibility with numerous big plays against a backdrop of overall consistency.
"One of my preseason goals was to hopefully make the first team, so it felt good to accomplish one of my goals," said Talianko, who was a second-team pick as a sophomore. "I knew I could [handle being the No.1 option on offense], I never really questioned myself or thought I should do anything [differently]. Obviously, I worked hard in the offseason and was mentally prepared for every game.
"I love high school football. It's a blessing that I've been able to be on this team for two years already and I'm really excited to spend one more year with this team."
Talianko finished with 17 touchdowns on the season and had 946 yards receiving on 59 catches.
"His numbers are very impressive," St. Francis Coach Jim Bonds said of Talianko, who also played safety and recorded 25 tackles. "To me, last year, as a sophomore, with Dietrich [Riley] on board and Justin [Posthuma], he was kind of our third weapon and snuck up on some people and surprised a few people with his numbers. The thing that's impressive about this year is that he was our go-to guy in every crucial situation and he was still able to have a phenomenal year.
"He's just a great athlete and every time we needed a big play, we were calling his number and he always came through."
Whether at left or right tackle, Carroll, a senior, anchored the Golden Knights' offensive line and was named All-Mission League Most Valuable Lineman despite missing four games due to injury.
"Patrick was a unanimous [All-CIF] selection, I think he got the most votes of any offensive lineman in the division," Bonds said. "[He is] very well-respected by the other coaches and very deserving of All-CIF.
"Obviously, we missed him in that stretch of games where he wasn't able to play and it showed. We got a lot better when he got back."
Sternau, a senior, was the Golden Knights' kicker and punter and was selected to the All-CIF first-team for the latter. He was an All-Mission League punter, as well, but also made a big impact with his kicking, converting nine field goals, including a 48-yarder, and putting 33 of his 43 kickoffs in the end zone.
"I thought, overall, Ian was one of the best in the area at everything he did," Bonds said. "We were not afraid to try [field goals] at long distances. …We didn't have to think about our kicking game a whole lot."
"He's very, I don't want to say underrated, but he's a little underappreciated, I think."
Crescenta Valley junior kicker Pavle Atanackovic was the only other area player to garner an All-CIF first team nod, as he was given the first-team kicker spot in the Southeast Division.
"[I'm] definitely [happy]," said Atanackovic, who converted five field goals for the Falcons (4-6). "Getting All-CIF is cool and, for playing my first year on varsity, it's very good."
In his first year starting at quarterback for St. Francis, Nelson, a senior, passed for 28 touchdowns to just eight interceptions, completing 168 of 292 passes for 2,765 yards. He also rushed for four touchdowns.
"His play down the stretch is what probably impressed me the most," Bonds said of Nelson, who threw 14 touchdowns to only two interceptions over the team's final seven games, as the Golden Knights won their final three regular-season games to make the playoffs, where they almost upset second-seeded Dominguez before falling, 28-25. "As our competition got tough, his play elevated. …He just did a great job of managing the offense and moving the chains. He had a great year for us."
Nieves, a junior cornerback, earned second-team defensive back honors after notching 46 tackles, three interceptions and four forced fumbles.
"Parker kind of came out of nowhere and did a great job at defensive back for us," Bonds said.