With an experienced personnel in place, things appeared promising for the St. Francis High football team entering the 2013 season.
After going 4-7 in 2012, the Golden Knights regrouped to go 10-3, 3-2 for third place in the grueling Mission League, before surging to the CIF Southern Section Western Division semifinals.
Simply put, with a prolific offense and steady defense, the Golden Knights earned plenty of attention on the field from their league opponents and coaching staffs.
As a result, 15 St. Francis players received all-league accolades, as voted on by the league six coaches. Nine athletes were selected to the first team, while six others earned spots on the second team.
“I think we got quite a bit of respect from the coaches around our league,” said St. Francis Coach Jim Bonds, whose team reached the semifinals for first time since 2005 after the Golden Knights eliminated Culver City and fourth-seeded Camarillo before falling to top-seeded Gardena Serra. “It’s nice to see that happen.
“Our only losses were against Serra [twice] and [CIF and state champion] Chaminade. Our win-loss record was great, but this team was by far one of the most fun to be around. To get this many all-league selections says something about what our players were able to do.”
Among those named to the first-team offense were Ty Gangi, Joe Mudie, Dylan Crawford, John Carroll and Kareem Zeenni. Earning first-team spots on defense were Marko Tinoco, Ricky Urzua, Avery Williams and Brody Felkel.
Gangi, a senior quarterback, often set the tone for the Golden Knights with his shrewd passing attack and innate running ability. He completed 189 of 342 passes (55%) for 2,882 yards and 25 touchdowns to just six interceptions. He additionally showcased his versatility as a standout runner, rushing 117 times for 421 yards and 12 touchdowns. On the season, he tallied 38 total touchdowns, including eight in the postseason.
“He was only a one-year starter at quarterback,” Bonds said. “Ty exceeded all of the expectations from the coaching staff and I.
“He knew how to put the ball right there on the money. He had that gifted ability to be a strong passer and runner. Ty is very smart and a joy to coach.”
Gangi said the Golden Knights were able to flourish on both sides of the ball.
“We had a group of players who were able to work hard,” Gangi said. “We had a lot of fun doing it each game.
“It means a lot to have so many of our players get all-league. We have a very good league and it’s always going to be competitive.”
Mudie, a senior running back, overcame a nagging hamstring injury during the season to rush for 1,350 yards in 179 carries (7.54 yards per carry) and 14 touchdowns. He also caught 39 passes for 612 yards and four touchdowns.
As a starting cornerback, Mudie finished with 23 tackles and excelled on special teams by way of 532 yards on kick off and punt returns.
“He had about 2,500 yards of all-purpose yards, so he showed how valuable he could be in different areas of the game,” Bonds said. “He went out there and did everything for us.
“He did such a good job of being able to run out of the backfield or make that big catch when we needed it.”
Crawford, a sophomore wide receiver, provided the Golden Knights with an extra dimension on offense. He caught 54 passes for 993 yards and 10 touchdowns.
“He brought the speed element to our passing attack,” Bonds said. “He had that ability to go up in the air and make some great catches.”
Carroll, a junior tight end, finished with 49 catches for 694 yards and seven touchdowns. On defense, the linebacker had 25 tackles, including seven for losses. He also added four sacks.
“John just had a huge year,” Bonds said. “He did a lot of things well, especially with his blocking while playing tight end and opening up holes.”
Zeenni, a junior kicker, proved to be a force for the Golden Knights on special teams. Zeenni converted all 33 extra-point attempts and made seven of 11 field-goal tries. In addition, 54 of his 88 kickoffs went for touchbacks.
“We were very fortunate with our kicking game the last few years from Mark Verso to Kareem,” Bonds said. “He was a big weapon and such a strong kicker.
“It would always be tough for the other team to have to start at the 20-yard line and then try to go 80 yards for a touchdown. He knew how to get the job done.”
Tinoco, a senior lineman, had 58 tackles, including 21 for a loss, and contributed 13 sacks to spur St. Francis defensively.
Urzua, a senior linebacker, notched 104 tackles — 12 for a loss — and five sacks.
Williams, a sophomore defensive back, finished with 69 tackles. He had three tackles for a loss, in addition to picking up four interceptions and recovering three fumbles.
Felkel, a junior, excelled as a lineman, tight end and punter for the Golden Knights. In addition to having a 36-yard punt average, he also had 37 tackles, (six for a loss) and four sacks. On offense, he caught a pair of touchdowns.
“With Marko, he used his quickness to wreak havoc on the quarterbacks,” Bonds said. “Ricky was our team’s defensive MVP and you always knew what you were going to get.
“Avery is just a sophomore and it was unbelievable what he could do by being our hardest hitter. Brody did a lot of things well, especially being able to pin a team inside the 10- or 15-yard line.”
Earning spots on the second-team offense were senior linemen Joe Loubier, Trevor Provencio and Austin Finton. Each player took on the role of helping the Golden Knights at the line of scrimmage and providing Gangi with superb pass protection.
Among those tabbed to the all-league second-team defense were Michael Weber, Kevin Maloof and Mason Williams.