Top to bottom, teams in the West Catholic Athletic League are only getting better
By CHACE BRYSON | Editor
Patrick Walsh is a realist.
As the season-opener for his Serra-San Mateo team neared three weeks away, he was more than ready to admit that his program’s probationary status and Central Coast Section playoff ban would be a side note that would follow the Padres throughout this season.
And he was equally adamant that it wouldn’t matter.
“I would be remiss to say that it’s business as usual, because it’s not,” said Walsh, whose program was sanctioned by now-former CCS Commissioner, Nancy Blaser, after the coach chose to forfeit out of a postseason consolation game citing concern over his players’ health. (It would’ve been Serra’s 14th game of the season, and one that had no real postseason significance). “It’s not something that we’re not going to not talk about or try to avoid. It’s part of the story of this team. But we still are eager and intent to prove that we can play Padre football and create wonderful memories in the 2015 season.”
Serra could easily do that in the 10 games that they do have. First off, they have that season opener on Sept. 4 — a home game played under the lights against a De La Salle team which could still be the nation’s No. 1 team. But the Padres real season starts in October in the West Catholic Athletic League.
Walsh’s Padre teams have never needed extra motivation to chase a WCAL title, but this year’s scenario would make achieving the goal that much sweeter.
“Thankfully, we play in such a compelling and competitive league with history and tradition,” Walsh said. “Having the opportunity to hang a WCAL banner is of equal importance as a CCS one. It’s a rare occurrence.”
Another rare occurrence? Not seeing a WCAL team on top at the end of the CCS Open Division playoffs. That’s what happened a year ago when Sacred Heart Prep-Atherton of the Peninsula Athletic League defeated Bellarmine-San Jose of the WCAL 14-0 in the final. It was just the fourth time a non-WCAL has won the Open crown since the Division was created in 2004.
Bellarmine coach Mike Janda has the luxury of returning 13 starters from that 10-3 team a year ago. And filling in the gaps are underclassmen from a 9-1 JV team in 2014.
“Bellarmine returns almost everybody,” Valley Christian-San Jose coach Mike Machado said. “In our league, there’s nothing better than having that experience of guys who have been up and are two-year starters. The thing about them is that you know what they’re going to do. They’ll be in that double-wing and they’re going to be sharp in execution because of that experience.”
Machado has a good deal of experience himself, including a 6-foot-5, Texas-bound playmaker at wide receiver by the name of Collin Johnson. Johnson caught 10 TD passes last season and he’ll be one of a handful of offensive weapons that should keep Warriors opponents honest.
Meanwhile, St. Francis-Mountain View also returns its quarterback, leading rusher, leading tackler and top two-way player from a year ago. And more than one coach expressed concern about an up-and-coming Riordan-S.F. team.
Also, Serra is very much a threat, even if its season ends once the WCAL title is determined.
The Padres will have a dynamic tailback in senior Kelepi Latiamua. Junior Sitaleki Nunn is back behind center after starting about half a season there as a sophomore in 2014. Nunn will have no shortage of big targets to throw to either, thanks to a receiving corp that features Brandon Monroe (6-foot-2), Rory Uniacke (6-3), Hunter Bishop (6-4) and Charlie Quinn (6-4).
Defensively, Serra will feature one of the best defensive end combinations in the league with Billy Tuitavake and Kwami Jones.
And despite Walsh’s optimism, he knows the WCAL all too well, and that it’s far from predictable.
“Over the last five years it’s been flip a coin with a lot of this stuff,” Walsh said. “If there is a floor, the floor is going to be way more toward the middle. The team that fumbles the least and misses the least amount of tackles is going to win by one point. It’s going to be a lot of fun.”
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