SportStars Magazine

City State Of Mind: Galileo Back For More After 2017 State Title Shocker

SF-Yarvell Smith (Galileo), Athletic Association football

The notion of an Academic Athletic Association football team winning a state championship seemed remote at best until Galileo, the alma mater of O.J. Simpson, pulled it off last December in stunning fashion.

The Lions, led by sophomore Yarvell Smith, the league’s Player of the Year, and Jimmy Edwards, the AAA’s Defensive Player of the Year, took two long bus rides to register CIF title wins.

Including a 38-20 win at Vincent Memorial-Calexico to claim the state Division 6-A crown.

Smith and Edwards are back, as is Ronald Fox, who rushed for 146 yards and two TDs in the state title game.

Making Galileo the obvious favorite to repeat as AAA/San Francisco Section champions.

But a senior-laden Lincoln squad and an always talented Mission team. Led by first-year coach Tobias Whitley, should give the Lions a strong challenge.

If nothing else, Galileo gave the other teams in the often-maligned league — 44-124 in nonleague play over the last five years — some strong inspiration.

“Galileo shined a lot of light on the AAA,” Whitley said. “Our kids believe they can do what they achieved also. It’s definitely a reachable goal. “

For Galileo, which traveled 602 miles to beat Vincent Memorial after a 50-mile jaunt to win the NorCal title 20-14 at Rio Vista, the road to repeat is paved with resolve.

State Champs

“Being state champs hasn’t changed anything at Galileo except as a coaching staff. We have a higher standard and goal with state in mind,” coach Mark Huynh said.

Much revolves around the team’s big three, including big burly running back/linebacker Smith, who rushed for 1,522 yards and 21 touchdowns and added 78 tackles.

With two more strong seasons, the 5-foot-11, 200-pounder could be the first AAA player to land a Division I scholarship since McLeod Bethel-Thompson, now a defensive back in the CFL who graduated from Balboa in 2006.

“He’s got leaner and grown some man-muscles,” Huynh said. “He’s still the best all-around player in the league in my opinion.”

Edwards (5-8, 175) had 139 tackles at middle linebacker, including 19.5 for loss last season. He made 10 of his 14 sacks in the final two games, including six in the state finale.

Fox (5-9, 145) moves from running back, where he rushed for 654 yards and eight TDs, to quarterback, replacing three-year starter Adrian Poot. Those are big shoes to fill, even though Poot stood only 5-3. Poot was gritty, smart and got the job done.

Fox presents a more dynamic dimension: “He’ll be tough to stop because of his legs,” Huynh said. “He can really run, but his quarterback skills are steadily improving.”

The Lions have more than the big three. All-City defensive back Michael Duran and receiver Reese Bickart return, as does utility player Thomas Santos and two-way lineman Joseph Ale. Newcomers Kobe Cabuntala, Robby Lee and Rafael Oropeza also impress Huynh.

“They’re the champs and they got their big guns returning,” Lincoln coach Phil Ferrigno said. “They have to be the favorites.”

Ferrigno, who has led Lincoln to six SFS titles since 2005. Loves his current lot of players, including safety/running back Jovan Baker (5-9, 160), quarterback/tight end/linebacker Eugene Larios-Felton (6-1, 200). Along with running back/cornerback DeSean Crawford (5-7, 150).

Crawford rushed for 1,021 yards and eight touchdowns.

Key Seniors

Other key seniors include Albert Moore (6-1, 250), Ruben Mejia-Perez (5-7, 200), Ajani Adewusi (6-1, 175) and Rocky Marania (5-9, 165).

“There’s a lot of reason for optimism,” Ferrigno said. “All these kids got the job done in the classroom and in the weight room in the offseason. They’ve built a nice culture. We’ll see how our depth goes.”

Whitley, who graduated from Mission in 1998, has taken over for Greg Hill, who led the Bears to 16 wins in two seasons, including a SFS title in 2016. Whitley served the last three seasons as junior varsity coach.Mission has won four straight round-robin league crowns.

The Bears are led by speedy back Jelani Al-Malik (5-8, 160), the AAA’s sprint champion, quarterback/linebacker McKinley Oliver (6-0, 190) and wide receiver Matthew Cohn.

“Our expectations are to play our best, be disciplined, play one game at a time and compete for a state championship,” Whitley said.

— Stephen Scott

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