Upon the release Tuesday afternoon of the 2011-12 All-CIF Southern Section football selections, St. Francis High senior Travis Talianko was listed among the Western Division honorees as a first-team receiver. But Talianko's receiving numbers took a large dip this year, as it was the San Jose State-bound standout's skills as a safety that truly came to the forefront.
Nevertheless, one thing was once again abundantly clear and that was that Talianko was an All-CIF mainstay, as he concluded a phenomenal three-year varsity career at St. Francis with his third consecutive All-CIF postseason selection.
"It's a pretty awesome accomplishment for anybody," said Golden Knights Coach Jim Bonds of Talianko, whose first season of tackle football was as a freshman at St. Francis. "He had his ninth-grade year to get used to it and then he was an All-CIF player three years. So I still think his best football is in front of him."
Talianko was joined by teammate Billy McCreary as Golden Knights honored, along with a trio of Crescenta Valley Falcons — Marro Lee, Justin Springfield and, garnering his second such honor, Pavle Atanackovic.
"I'm excited about that," said Talianko, who was also a three-time All-Area and All-Mission League pick, of garnering three consecutive All-CIF selections.
While he was recognized as a selection at receiver, Talianko truly came into his own as a safety.
"His contributions on defense were great," Bonds said.
Due to constant double-coverage, the increased roles of teammates and likely because he rarely left the field, Talianko's offensive contributions of 44 catches, 687 yards and three touchdowns were down from seasons past. Defensively, though, he had one interception, which he returned for a touchdown, to go along with 56 tackles (42 solo), six passes defensed and two fumble recoveries.
"All signs right now are [safety is] where I'm gonna play in college," Talianko said. "I'm happy with that because I do feel I came into my own back there."
Opposite of Talianko, Lee stood out on the offensive end as a running back, but was recognized as a defensive back.
Nonetheless, Lee was spectacular in 11 games at running back for the Falcons, tallying 1,187 yards rushing in 201 carries with nine touchdowns. He also added 223 yards receiving and three scores on 27 catches.
Springfield was a first-team All-Pacific League selection who tied for the Falcons' team-high with 60 tackles to go with five sacks, an interception and a fumble recovery.
Atanackovic, who is currently leading his school's first-place soccer team, converted eight field goals, including kicks of 52 and 49 yards. He also made all 35 of his point-after attempts.
While McCreary, who's also a soccer player, didn't have quite the long leg, he was plenty clutch and plenty versatile for the Golden Knights. Also a starting cornerback, McCreary handled most of his team's punting and converted 34 PATs and 10 field goals.
"He just made some really clutch kicks for us," Bonds said. "He was very accurate and when the chips were down, he came through."
In seasons past, the Western Division also had a second team — which is not officially released or recognized by the CIF. However, Bonds was uncertain as to whether any Golden Knights made any second team, as the Mission League's representative did not have that information.
Therefore, Bonds was upset with the absences of offensive linemen Kristion Grbavac and Joe Marrone, linebacker Luke Anderson and, particularly linebacker/receiver Ryan McAleenan, who shared team most valuable player honors with Talianko.
"I do think we had some guys who got robbed," said Bonds, whose team finished third in the Mission League and advanced to the CIF Western Division quarterfinals before finishing at 9-3.
Other area All-CIF honorees were linebacker Nathan Hamming of Pasadena Poly in the Northeast Division and in the Southeast Division: Zander Anding, Gus Ferrat and Kody Jensen of Burroughs and Tarien Owens, Kevon Seymour and Denzel Talifero of Muir. According to Pacific League representative Keith Knoop of Burroughs, there was no second team for the division.