WCAL prep football preview 

A capsule look at how the teams stack up this season:

RIORDAN CRUSADERS

» LAST YEAR: 4-6 (2-4 in West Catholic Athletic League)

» COACH: Mike Langridge (second year, 4-6)

» RETURNING LETTERMEN: 20, including WR-DB Daniel Cannon, QB Darius Bell, RB Osa Aigbuza, RB-DB John Marman, LB-TE Danny Curtin, WR-DB Jordan Wood.

» KEY NEWCOMERS: WR Chris Seals, LB-TE Jude Melloncon, QB-SS Dan Brown.

» OUTLOOK: Coming off a 4-6 season, Riordan will look to make strides in Langridge’s second season at the helm.

TE Rob Jones may have departed, but the cupboard is far from bare for the Crusaders as a bevy of returning skill position players return, led by Division I WR-DB prospect Cannon and QB Bell. Cannon can do it all for the Crusaders both offensively and defensively and Bell has a full list of options to turn to in the backfield, as senior RBs Aigbuza and Marman return.

Defensively, Cannon will get help from senior LB Curtin and massive DL Errol Tu’ufuli, a 6-2, 340-pound senior. As usual, the Crusaders will have a tough slate ahead against the loaded WCAL, but Langridge believes Riordan can compete for a title if it remains focused.

"The physical punishment of the league isn’t nearly as bad as the mental," Langridge said. "We were an up-and-down team last year. This year we have to keep on an even keel and remain consistent if we want to be successful."

» KEY GAME: Oct. 5 vs. St. Ignatius at Kezar Stadium, 7 p.m. The Crusaders will look to avenge a 14-7 heartbreaker to the Wildcats last year in the Stanfel Cup.

— Will Reisman

SERRA PADRES

» LAST YEAR: 9-3 (5-1 WCAL; lost to Oak Grove 23-22 in CCS open division semifinal)

» COACH: Patrick Walsh (seventh year, 40-26)

» RETURNING LETTERMEN: OL Andrew Bakhtiari, WR Andrew Cullins, RB-DB De’Leon Eskridge, K Greg Guttas, RB-LB J.P. Hurrell, QB Cody Jackson, TE-DL Gio Johnson, CB Marquise Jones, LB Sean Sabean, OL Vince Signiori, RB-LB Tiuke Tuipulotu

» KEY NEWCOMER: TE-DL Doug Caldwell

» OUTLOOK: Walsh says assumptions could be the biggest obstacle facing the Padres this season as a team that shared the WCAL title with St. Ignatius a year ago has the potential to be even better in 2007.

Serra returns the WCAL Running Back of the Year (Eskridge), Junior of the Year (Tuipulotu), Quarterback of the Year (Jackson), Linebacker of the Year (Hurrell) and Kicker of the Year (Guttas) and has a roster of 71 — the largest in Walsh’s seven years at the school.

"[But] we can’t assume that just because of what we did last year and the guys we have coming back that we should be better," Walsh said. "We want to become a great program, and we can’t have a letdown."

Hurrell has already committed to play next year at Cal, and will join the multi-talented Tuipulotu as the leaders of the defense. Tuipulotu will also split carries with RB Eskridge on offense, and the duo combined for more than 2,300 yards and 34 touchdowns in 2006.

» KEY GAME: Oct. 13 at Riordan, 1 p.m. Serra will look to avenge its only league loss of last season against the Crusaders, coached by former Padres defensive coordinator Mike Langridge.

— Matt Elliser

ST. IGNATIUS WILDCATS

» LAST YEAR: 10-2-1 (5-1 in WCAL; won Central Coast Section medium-school division championship)

» COACH: Steve Bluford (fourth season)

» RETURNING LETTERMEN: Eight, including C Ryan Falvey, OL Matt Callan, DL David Schaefer, Ng Leland Quinn, OL Hank Verdurmen.

» KEY NEWCOMERS: QB Abe Waziri, QB Rogers Farlow

» OUTLOOK: The most pressing question concerning St. Ignatius entering this season is simple: What can it possibly do for an encore?

Coming off a storybook season that included their first WCAL title in 39 years and the first Central Coast Section championship in school history, the Wildcats must replace a slew of departed players at the skill positions. But they do return several key contributors on the offensive and defensive lines. Senior C Falvey is back, as are fellow OL Callan and Verdurmen — all key cogs in a rushing attack that produced 1,438 yards last season. On the other side of the ball, seniors Schaefer and Leland Quinn will be anchors on the defensive line. The main concern is at quarterback, where the Wildcats must replace Chris McCaffery, the WCAL Player of the Year.

"We have a lot of questions marks coming into this season," Bluford said. "But one thing I can say, is that the kids are really working hard and are eager to get out and play."

» KEY GAME: Sept. 21 vs. Sacred Heart Cathedral at Kezar Stadium, 5 p.m. The first leg of the Bruce-Mahoney Trophy will be up for grabs in this clash between city rivals.

— Will Reisman

INDEPENDENT

Sacred Heart Cathedral Irish

» LAST YEAR: 6-4

» COACH: John Lee (fourth year, 17-13)

» RETURNING LETTERMEN: 14, including RB Dasarte Yarnway, DB-WB Stevie Lee, TE-DE Danny Barrett, OL Cameron Cuznar.

» KEY NEWCOMERS: QB Matt Loftus, FS-SE Joey Williams, CB-WB Kenny Cavness, LB-WR Anthony Chagnoit.

» OUTLOOK: With their return to the West Catholic Athletic League still one year away, the Irish will play one more season without a league affiliation, making them unable to qualify for postseason play.

The Irish split games against their city rivals last year, beating Riordan 8-7 and falling to St. Ignatius 24-7. This season, the hopes are high, due in large part to the return of star RB Yarnway, who rushed for more than 1,800 yards last year as a sophomore. Despite losing 33 seniors to graduation, Lee is optimistic about the season, thanks to a talented group of incoming juniors who led the JV team to a 9-1 record in 2006.

"We’ve got the talent here to compete," said Lee, whose team has gone 15-5 over the past two seasons. "These guys know how to win and I think we’re going to be happy with the results this year."

» KEY GAME: Sept. 21 vs. St. Ignatius at Kezar Stadium, 5 p.m. The first of back-to-back rivalry games will determine how the Irish’s season goes.

— Will Reisman

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