Editor's note: This is part of a series of San Francisco prep football previews that will run over the next month leading up to the start of the season.
The St. Ignatius football team's 2012 season was one for the ages.
The Wildcats went 10-4 and defeated Bellarmine 13-10 in an overtime classic in the Central Coast Section Open Division title game, earning them a spot in the CIF State Regional NorCal Division I Bowl Game. SI lost to eventual state D-I champion and powerhouse Granite Bay 45-17. So how do the Wildcats build off that success as they enter the 2013 season?
Trust in the process.
"Our goals have always been the same and they will remain the same," SI coach John Regalia said. "Obviously with success comes expectations, but this group has been grounded in what's expected of them. Guys have to earn a spot no matter what they did last year."
Regalia is such a stickler for open competition that he doesn't use or like the term "returning starters." Instead, Regalia fires off a list of names he expects to make an impact this year, players who have already shown an ability to lead by example.
The difference-makers include running backs Elijah Dale and Stephan Ostrowski, two-way lineman Connor Hagan, linebacker-running back Brian Wollitz, tight end-defensive end Nik Bell, and Joe Lang, a multi-position extraordinaire. Lang, a standout on SI's nationally-ranked lacrosse team, plays wide receiver, cornerback and returns punts and kicks.
"Joe is smart, athletic and an on-field coach," Regalia said. "Brian has a great motor and a high football IQ. Stephan is a quiet force, and he consistently makes plays."
Dale is a returning first team, all-WCAL selection, able to bust off an explosive play on a moment's notice. The 5-foot-9, 185-pound senior rushed for over 1,400 yards last year, scoring the game-tying and winning touchdowns in the CCS Open Division championship game. Bell is expected to be a force on both sides of the ball, whether it be catching passes from his tight end position or creating havoc as a defensive end.
"Nik has a great strength and frame, he's smart and he's a guy who can create and make plays," Regalia said.
Hagan is arguably the team's best two-way lineman, consistently getting the job done through sheer effort, talent and determination. In regards to the all-important quarterback position, Regalia would only say that four players — two seniors and two juniors — are currently battling for the starting slot.
"I don't know if we know our strengths and weaknesses yet," Regalia said. "All I know is this group has shown they're very motivated and focused on building a team. The work ethic, focus and energy has been great."