St. Vincent looks for big season before joining the NBL

Ready or not, the St. Vincent High School football program becomes a member of the North Bay League next season. If Saturday’s scrimmage against Analy is any indication, the Mustangs are already ready.

St. Vincent more than matched Analy’s highly regarded Tigers on both sides of scrimmage. Granted, it was the first outside contact for both teams, but the Mustangs showed they are ready to play with the big boys, scoring six times to Analy’s one in the tightly controlled scrimmage.

“I’m extremely happy with the way we played,” said St. Vincent head coach Trent Herzog, now in his second season leading the Mustangs. “Our offense moved the football and our defense played well.”

Herzog has 45 players on a Mustang team that will play both a varsity and junior varsity schedule. The players all practice together, with some of the 14 sophomores and 15 freshmen playing in varsity games and some participating in the junior varsity contest.

All will practice with the same coaching staff. “The 45th player on the roster is going to get as much coaching as the No. 1,” Herzog said.

That said, St. Vincent is definitely not forgetting about the now.

Last season, Herzog took a team that had won just one game in 2017 to a 6-5 record and into the North Coast Section Division 5 playoffs.

“Last year was a honeymoon,” the coach said. “The players were getting to know me and I was getting to know them. This year, we expect to be successful. We expect to make the playoffs.”

Left unsaid is the belief that St. Vincent not only expects to reach the playoffs, but to do well in the post-season games.

The confidence is built on the solid foundation of a strong front line.

“It ranks in the top three of offensive lines I’ve ever coached,” said Herzog. “All five starters have good size, are good athletes and they can run.”

Tackles Giovanni Antonini (6-feet, 3-inches, 250 pounds) and Giovanni Vaca (6-3, 250) were mainstays of last season’s line, flopping from side-to-side depending on where St. Vincent wanted to run the ball.

This year, they can stay stationed at one spot with the emergency of Morgan Morarity (5-11, 260) and Tommy Izard (6-1, 275) at the guards. Morarity missed all of last season, forced to sit out the entire year after losing an appeal of a transfer ruling. Izard is a transfer from Piner.

“They all have college talent,” said Herzog.

The center is junior Garrett Caramucci, another gifted lineman who is the lightweight of the group at 5-feet, 9 inches, 230 pounds.

Anton Gattis will be an “H-back type,” lining up at tight end at times and sometimes in the backfield.

Dennis Welsh, who started 10 games last season as a sophomore, provides depth, but behind him, St. Vincent will have to count on the development of freshmen and sophomores.

There is little experience at running back with the graduation of Daniel Burleson, who did much of the carrying for the Mustangs last season.

Junior Devaneaux Sagaral returns, planning to make good on the potential that was cut short last season by a broken collarbone.

Herzog has high hopes for freshman Kai Hall, who he says is the fastest player on the team.

Herzog called sophomore Liam O’Hare “pound for pound the toughest player on the team. He does everything well.”

Senior Nick Hedge will be used at fullback in situations were tough yards are needed.

Key wide receivers are junior Jeremy Bukolsky, who had to sit out because of transfer rules last season, and much improved sophomore Dante Antoni, who saw time as a freshman last season.

Tight end Roy Morgan had more reception yardage than any returning receiver, grabbing 12 passes for 219 yards last year.

Sophomores Killan Collins and Carter Payte could also get some playing time at tight end, while freshman Nathan Rooks and junior Nate Berniklau will help at wide receiver.

Then there is senior Andrew Kohler. He will play not somewhere, but everywhere. “He is our Swiss Army Knife,” said Herzog. The veteran is among the team’s best receivers, but he can also play at running back and fullback.

St. Vincent’s quarterbacks are young but talented.

No. 1 will be sophomore Jacob Porteous, whose development was slowed last season by a knee injury. “He is returning much improved mentally and physically,” said Herzog. “He is an outstanding player.”

Porteous will be backed by freshman Jaret Bosarge, brother of Jadon Bosarge, Casa Grande High’s all-league quarterback of last season. “He knows football,” said Herzog. “He has ‘it.’?”

While St. Vincent has excellent numbers for a small school, the depth is a bit of an illusion, based on its large numbers of freshmen and sophomores. Reality is a different matter, with seven key players expected to start on both sides of scrimmage.

The defense revolves around Gio Antonini. “He’s our heart and soul,” said Herzog. “He’s a throwback. He could start for any school in the state.”

The junior will line up at nose tackle, linebacker or just about any place the Mustangs need him.

The defensive front will be anchored by Morarity, Izard and Vaca, with Caramucci rotating into the mix.

Sophomore Jared Flores, all 290 pounds of him, will help in the run stopping, as will impressive freshman Cameron Vaughn. The coach also has been impressed with the hard work of senior Eddy Guzman.

Seniors Morgan and Anton Ghattas give St. Vincent two solid starters at defensive end with Dennis Welsh. Dominic Menton and Abramo also figure to get playing time.

Joining Antonini at linebacker will be Hedge, Kai Hall, Hunter Collins and Jake DeCarli.

The defensive backfield has both talent and depth, led by Kohler, who will be both corner and safety and, at times line up at linebacker.

“He is one of our best players,” said Herzog. “He is a leader on both offense and defense.”

Others involved in the defensive back equation include Dante Antonini, Bukolsky, Sagaral, O’Hare and Berniklau.

Vaca and Juan Jimenez will handle the kicking, with Jimenez and Kohler doing the punting.

First game

St. Vincent travels north to open its season at McKinleyville. The Panthers, who play in the Humboldt-Del Norte Little 4 League, had a tough season last year, winning just two of 10 games.

However, the host for the season opener is much improved from last season and always plays tough at home. The Panthers gave St. Vincent a good game of it last season before losing, 18-0.

St. Vincent will travel on Thursday, stay overnight and return Friday after the game.

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