Coach: Mike Janda
2012 record: 11-2, 7-0
CCS playoffs: Lost to St. Ignatius 13-10 in overtime in Open Division final.
Outlook: Much like last year, Bellarmine enters the season looking to fill holes, with only two starters back on defense and four on offense. But one of those starters is Vanderbilt-bound quarterback K.J. Carta-Samuels, who helped guide the Bells to a perfect West Catholic Athletic League season and two playoff wins in 2012 before a heartbreaking loss to St. Ignatius in the Open Division championship game. "K.J. has to be a team leader, and he's got to be a guy who we can count on," coach Mike Janda said. Faced with a similar reloading situation a year ago, Bellarmine got significant contributions from running back/linebacker Kenneth Olugbode, who went to become Mercury News player of the year. "Will we have somebody like that this year? I'm hoping," Janda said. Olugbode, utility standout Joey Sanfilippo and lineman Dominic Luca, all first-team All-Mercury News players, have graduated. For now, the Bells plan to use a committee of Gavin Lynam, Elijah Marshall, Grant Bush and Austin Changras at running back. Asked about the defense, Janda said, "We have to replace our whole secondary. That's going to be a big job for us. We also have to replace two out of three defensive linemen. We've got work to do there." Asked about the league, Janda said, "Valley Christian is the one that looks like they have the most returning players. They have a lot of good young players, too. Serra should be strong -- but everybody, that's the thing about the WCAL. Everybody's good. Everybody's going to be ready to go, too."
Coach: Patrick Walsh
2012 record: 9-3, 5-2
CCS playoffs: Lost to Bellarmine 17-12 in Open Division semifinal.
Outlook: This season is the beginning of life after the Erics for the Serra football team. Erich Wilson and Eric Redwood put up huge numbers the past two seasons at running back in Serra's run-heavy offense. Three players are in contention for carries this season: returners Kevin McGee and Kava Cassidy and sophomore Kelepi Lataimua. McGee was a backup running back a year ago. Cassidy mostly saw time at wide receiver. Quarterback is another position where someone new will need to step in to replace the graduated Zack Kazakoff. Anthony Smock and Matt Fa'aita are competing for the starting job in fall camp. Right guard Ryan Rudolph (6-2, 265) is the one returning starter on the line. Christian Villanueva (6-1, 220) is the starter at center. Left tackle Jack Dreyer (6-8, 285), left guard Creighton Felise (5-11, 215) and right tackle Thomas Meredith (6-4, 250) are slated to be the other starters. Matt Dickerson (6-5, 275), who has given an oral commitment to Notre Dame as a defensive line prospect, will see time at tight end, as will James Outman. Hamilton Anoa'I (6-2, 225), a major-college defensive back prospect, suffered a season-ending ACL injury against Mitty last season. He is back and will play wide receiver on offense. Others in the mix for playing time include Austin Jackson, Cassidy (if he's not lined up at running back), Ian McGuire and sophomore Brandon Monroe. Third-year varsity players Daniel Lavulo (5-11, 215) and Jehrico Tufono (5-6, 235) will join Dickerson on the defensive line, making it a team strength. Eric Westerman is the other starter. Manu Langi, Outman and Justin Tatola are the linebackers. Anoa'I, Tyson Terreros and Nick Maka should provide excellent play at safety. Cassidy and Lataimua are likely starters at cornerback. Steven Bodely will step in as the kicker. Walsh said he thinks Bellarmine is the favorite for the WCAL title. "Until someone takes it from them, they're the favorite,'' Walsh said. "They have the best quarterback in the league coming back. Valley Christian and Mitty were both really young with major talent last year. This is a miserable, excruciating, wonderful time of year to be a WCAL coach. "It's wonderful but miserable.''
ST. IGNATIUS WILDCATS
Coach: John Regalia
2012 record: 10-4, 5-2
CCS playoffs: Beat Bellarmine 13-10 in overtime in Open Division final.
NorCal regional: Lost to Granite Bay 45-17 in Division I championship.
Outlook: St. Ignatius' fortunes will likely revolve around the play of RB Elijah Dale, who had a terrific junior season, rushing for 1,348 yards and 12 touchdowns. "He's very tough between the tackles,'' coach John Regalia said. "He's got a good speed burst on the outside, he's a powerful back and is a very good receiver out of the backfield. Not only does he possess those physical traits, but he's also a great student of the game who loves to watch film.'' Other key players for the Wildcats this season will include OL/DL Connor Hagen (6-4, 247), TE/DE Nik Bell (6-4, 217), LB Brian Wollitz (5-7, 205) and WR/DB Joe Lang, described by Regalia as a dynamic athlete who will also return kicks.
ARCHBISHOP MITTY MONARCHS
Coach: Matt Haniger
2012 record: 8-4, 4-3
CCS playoffs: Lost to St. Ignatius 25-22 in Open Division semifinal.
Outlook: Archbishop Mitty came within three minutes of playing for the Open Division championship last season but watched St. Ignatius stage a late rally for the victory. Gone from that Mitty team are linebacker Bobby O'Leary and defensive lineman Jason Sutton -- both first-team All-Mercury News players last season -- and quarterback Wyatt Hansen. But the Monarchs are expected to contend once again as fullback/linebacker Chandler Ramirez, running backs Kyle Evans and Dakari Monroe, 6-4, 235-pound tight end Tommy Hudson and lineman Daniel Mendoza return. Senior Trenton Scharrenberg takes over for Hansen at quarterback. "He's doing a good job," coach Matt Haniger said. "He's very intelligent and runs our offense really well, as far as reading fronts and directing us where to go" Scharrenberg said he learned a lot as Hansen's backup last season. "He was a great leader and a good role model to look up to," Scharrenberg said. "This year we're looking to get better on the field every time we step up and do the best we can. That's what we're concerned with." Haniger said he expects the WCAL race to be wide open. "Everybody in our league is getting better," he noted. "But I think until Bellarmine gets knocked off, you've got to put Bellarmine up there." Mitty nearly defeated Bellarmine last season, but a dramatic touchdown in the closing minutes started the Bells' run toward the WCAL championship. The Monarchs rushed for 2,861 yards last season, including 818 by Ramirez and 598 by Evans.
VALLEY CHRISTIAN WARRIORS
Coach: Mike Machado
2012 record: 7-6, 2-5
CCS playoffs: Beat Aptos 51-20 in Division III final.
Outlook: Valley Christian won a section championship last season, but the Warriors know they were so close to playing for an even bigger prize. Valley Christian lost four WCAL games by a total of 14 points, which prevented the team from qualifying for the Open Division playoffs. The good news for Valley Christian is many of its players from last season are back, including 6-foot-4, 275-pound lineman Charlie Nelson and junior running back Kirk Johnson, who rushed for 1,710 yards and 25 touchdowns as a sophomore last season. Johnson has set high goals for this fall. "Team-wise, definitely a championship-winning team," Johnson said. "We have all the potential, great talent. Personal goals, 2,000 (yards) this year, at least. Blocking, that's important for me, finishing out plays, being a leader." Asked about Johnson's high target, coach Mike Machado said, "There is nothing wrong with goals. Goals are always necessary. They keep you honest, and they keep you moving forward." Valley Christian also returns center Zach Artman and lineman Fa'auli Gaoteote. The Warriors lost Ryan Severson -- who rushed for 2,134 yards and was the Mercury News' offensive player of the year in 2012 -- to graduation and quarterback Jay MacIntyre, who transferred to a Colorado high school after his dad, former San Jose State coach Mike MacIntyre, took over the University of Colorado program. With Johnson taking over for Severson as the team's top back, Mark Quimby, Tre McCloud and John Wilkinson are expected to slide in to Johnson's role from last season. Michael Machado, a junior and the coach's son, replaces MacIntyre. "You've got to be ready when you're number's called," the elder Machado said. "He's worked hard, he's been around it. He was our ball boy for eight years. He knows the offense as well as anybody, besides me, on the campus." The Warriors return six starters on offense and five on defense. Eric Scharrenberg, the school's vice president of athletics, has returned as defensive coordinator, a unit he oversaw when Valley Christian went on a championship run a few years ago. Last season, the Warriors struggled to keep teams from scoring.
ST. FRANCIS LANCERS
Coach: Greg Calcagno
2012 record: 8-5, 4-3
CCS playoffs: Beat Los Gatos 17-0 in Division II final.
Outlook: The biggest change at St. Francis is on the sideline. Nick Navarro's departure last spring led to the hiring of Greg Calcagno, the son of the team's legendary coach Ron Calcagno, for whom the St. Francis stadium is named after. Greg Calcagno was the quarterback and a captain on the program's 13-0 team in 1982. Calcagno, who has coached the program's lower levels, takes over a varsity team that sizzled at the end of last season. The Lancers lost a "decent amount" of players from that squad but have good junior varsity players to fill the spots, Calcagno said. The Lancers no longer have record-setting quarterback Michael Lauck and first-team All-Mercury News defensive lineman Shane Artim. Among its candidates for the quarterback spot is Mountain View transfer Will Fischer-Colbrie, but he won't be eligible until the team's fifth game (Oct. 7 against Bellarmine College Prep), Calcagno said. No team in the CCS played better defense down the stretch last season than St. Francis, which allowed seven points in its final four games while shutting out Serra, Overfelt and Los Gatos. The Lancers' top returners are first-team All-Mercury News defensive back Landon Baty, RB/DB Alex Andrighetto, nose guard/fullback Jack Casarez and lineman Ryan Popolizio. The team aims to build on its late surge from last fall. "We want to play for CCS championships," Calcagno said. "That's our goal, and we play in a league that if we can get through that league, that's going to certainly toughen us up. Every week's going to be a tough one, but we want to take the momentum that we got from that Los Gatos victory and jump out of the gate."
SACRED HEART CATHEDRAL IRISH
Coach: Ken Peralta
2012 record: 2-8, 1-6
Outlook: Ken Peralta, the former coach at Riordan and Marin Catholic, returns to the school he graduated from in 1979. "I'm very excited to be back at my alma mater,'' Peralta said. He will install the double-wing offense he introduced to the WCAL at Riordan, an offense that has since been picked up by Bellarmine and Serra. "It's a very effective high school offense, very simple to teach,'' Peralta said. "At Riordan we were in need of something that would make us unique.'' Peralta won a WCAL title at Riordan and took Marin Catholic to a state championship game appearance using that offense, so don't be surprised to see the Fightin' Irish move up in the standings. But this year SHC will likely pass a good amount. Peralta inherits an excellent quarterback in Logan White (6-2, 210). "He can throw the football,'' Peralta said. "I'm not so set in my ways that I won't use a good player.'' The team's best lineman is Andrew Jacobson (6-4, 235). RB/FS Brett Rasso is a college prospect in baseball. Steve Hisatake (5-9, 185) is an undersized but hard-hitting middle linebacker.
"We have what we need to be successful,'' Peralta said.
ARCHBISHOP RIORDAN CRUSADERS
Coach: John Lee
2012 record: 3-8, 1-7
CCS playoffs: Lost to Sobrato 40-17 in Division III first-round game.
Outlook: Lee moves across town from Sacred Heart Cathedral, where he coached the last 23 years. Riordan's strength is at quarterback with Zach Masoli (6-1, 205), and that should be a good fit with Lee's pro style and spread-option offensive approach. "He's got a strong arm, good speed, and he understands the concepts of beating a defense,'' Lee said of Masoli, the younger brother of former Oregon standout Jeremiah Masoli. "He wants to learn and he's a competitor.'' WR/FS Chris Hall, a third-year varsity player, will likely be Masoli's favorite target. TE Rob Valencia (6-5, 265) and OT Elliot Baker (6-6, 285) provide size up front. "The attitude here is really positive,'' Lee said. "They want to get better. Coming to practice every day is not a task, they want to be here."