Sacred Heart Cathedral optimistic about new team 

click to enlarge Ready: From left, Matt Hewitson, Brett Rasso and Jerry Peralta will look to keep SHC on track. - DEVIN CHEN/SPECIAL TO THE S.F. EXAMINER
  • Devin Chen/Special to the S.F. Examiner
  • Ready: From left, Matt Hewitson, Brett Rasso and Jerry Peralta will look to keep SHC on track.

As a man of countless mantras, it’s no surprise Sacred Heart Cathedral football coach John Lee has another one ready for the 2012 season, but it’s far from a trite sports cliche.

The quote, which he has borrowed from Vince Lombardi, speaks directly to how the Irish are positioned heading into the 2012 season, as the school in The City that lost the most talent from 2011.

“The measure of who we are is what we do with what we have,” Lee said, repeating Lombardi’s words. “These are the cards we’ve been dealt. We can’t hand them back. I’m not going to let it faze me.”

The list of graduating seniors off last season’s team is so overwhelming that the West Catholic Athletic League coaches predicted the Irish would finish last in the league in their preseason poll, even behind Riordan, which has gone 1-20 in the past three seasons of league play and has lost to Sacred Heart in four straight years.

The strength of the Irish, despite losing every piece of its standout linebacking unit from last year, will again be their defense. The system designed to confuse opponents, where players are constantly shifting and alternating between down stances and stand-up positions, remains and will have to be just as good, if not better than last year’s unit for the Irish to remain competitive in the WCAL.

“Defense is again going to be a backbone for us. They have more experienced guys back,” Lee said. “We take our fastest kids and put them on defense.”

The onus is on the defense due to so many question marks on the other side of the ball.

Valentino Miles, who ran for more than 1,600 yards and was named by this publication as City Player of the Year last season, is gone, as is quarterback Jack Harrington and four of the five starting offensive linemen from 2011.

Lee said he could rotate as many as six running backs into action this season, led by junior Brett Rasso, who will also play linebacker, line up at receiver and return punts and kicks in the mold of do-everything impact player Zach Tapel from 2011.

“There’s no real running back,” Lee said. “There is no Miles. We don’t have that guy. What we do have is guys who can play a lot of positions and that’s how we have prepared.”

Rasso was a first-team All-City baseball player and has off-the-charts athleticism.

“You’re only in high school once and not many people get this opportunity,” Rasso said of his presence in every phase for the Irish. “I have big shoes to fill and I don’t want to just fit in the shoe. I want to exceed and really fulfill my potential.”

Quarterback is also up in the air, even though Lee admits senior Jerry Peralta will be the starter. Strong-armed incoming sophomore Logan White will get playing time as well, however, and Lee said Peralta will line up at receiver when White is under center.

Peralta has the varsity experience and played significant and productive minutes in a backup role last season, but there is a sense of buzz around White, who was listed as one of the “Players to Watch” by the WCAL.

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