St. Ignatius College Preparatory

San Francisco’s Jesuit School since 1855

Championship History of SI Football

The Origin Story: SI's first game

The first SI football team of 1893. In those days, football meant rugby before the dawn of American-style football.

SI's football program began on St. Patrick's Day in 1893 with a rugy game between Sacred Heart and SI that marks the the oldest athletic rivalry of any school west of the Rocky Mountains. (The centenary of that rivalry was celebrated in the fall of 1992 at Kezar Stadium with a crowd of 7,000 witnessing SI’s 7–3 victory over the Irish. Mention of this grand tradition can be found in the 2002 National High School Sports Record Book on page 151 under the “Oldest Current Rivalries” section. There, the SI vs. SH match-ups are tied for ninth with two other schools. The oldest rivalry dates from 1875 between New London and Norwich Free Academy, both of Connecticut.)

San Francisco Chronicle writer Will Connolly ’28, in the November 4, 1949, edition, wrote about that first game in an interview with Warren White ’39, an English teacher at SI at the time who had researched the history of the rivalry. He told Connolly that the game began when Cornelius Kennedy, a Sacred Heart College student, “bought a pamphlet on ‘How to Play Football,’ written by a young man under the style of Amos Alonzo Stagg. Kennedy collected a team at Sacred Heart and elected himself coach and captain because he owned the textbook and the football. He had an investment of $12 and needed competition to protect it. So he visited St. Ignatius and cajoled the boys into fielding a team. Kennedy was magnanimous. St. Ignatius had no coach, no team. He generously agreed to teach them the fundamentals gleaned from the Stagg book. For two weeks he tutored the Ignatians late in the day, after putting in licks with his own Sacred Heart eleven.

“The game was played on March 17, which is St. Patrick’s Day and a holiday for the schools…. The game was held in Central Park at Eighth and Market streets where the Crystal Palace now stands. Fifty-seven years ago, the corner was on the outer fringe of the downtown district, virtually in the sticks. Both Sacred Heart and St. Ignatius had to practice surreptitiously, for the Brothers and the Jesuits considered football a brutalizing sport at that time and a distraction from scholarly pursuits. The way it was played, they were right. Injuries were common.

“Sacred Heart won, 14 to 4. The Irish of SH were accoutered in canvas jackets, red and yellow stockings. St. Ignatius wore black and gold, a radical change from the colors they now affect. You could suspect that Kennedy deliberately under-coached St. Ignatius. As a matter of fact, he gave his best effort. The game was close. Under association rules … at that time, a touchdown counted 4 points and a field goal 2.”

Connolly also noted that “the Kennedy in question later embraced the sacerdotal cloth. He is now pastor of St. Paul’s, a basic parish in the Mission. Surely the Rev. Cornelius Kennedy, in his salad days, wouldn’t have stooped to trick the poor, benighted Ignatians. He was simply trying to help.”

Turn of the Century

SI had an on-again, off-again relationship with football (which was played as rugby until the school adopted “American football” in 1919). SI fielded teams in 1908 and 1909, disbanded football in 1910, and reinstated it in 1911 on both the high school and college levels. The December 1911 Ignatian reported the following: “Considering the number of novices who formed the nucleus of the team, their work was gratifying. Their first game was with San Rafael Union High School on September 14. At the end of the game, we were the victors {25–0]. Being the first game of the season, it was devoid of any sensational plays, which generally thrill a spectator at a rugby game. The team on the whole played well, and every man had a hand in scoring.”

Football continued through 1916, but was discontinued in 1917 and 1918 in order to provide more athletes for the baseball and basketball teams. It made a brief appearance again in 1919, and again in 1922 before becoming firmly established in 1924 under coach Jimmy Needles (a football star from Santa Clara) and later, his brother Frank Needles.

Dick Hyland ’18 gained fame on America’s last Olympic rugby team

After returning from France, Hyland played football for Stanford, running 48 yards in the first play of the 1926 Big Game against Cal to score a touchdown in his team’s 41–6 victory that day. Photo courtesy Stanford University.

By Col. John Scharfen, USMC (Ret) ’43

In 1924, the U.S. won the rugby championship at the Paris Olympics with one of the principal team members being Richard Frank “Dick” Hyland ’18.

The U.S. had won the 1920 Olympic Gold in Antwerp by beating a good French team. In 1924, the French were still smarting over that loss. The American team was invited to compete in the games in Paris, and the American Olympic Committee accepted but didn’t provide money to fund the team.

Some veteran rugby players sponsored the effort, raising money and recruiting players from the San Francisco Bay Area, mostly football players, from Stanford, Cal and Santa Clara. It was a pickup team of some accomplished athletes who had not played rugby as a team before. One French newspaper referred to them as “street fighters and saloon brawlers.”

They had other handicaps: When they arrived in Boulogne-sur-Mer, the French immigration authorities refused to let them come ashore, so the Americans forced their way onto French soil and stayed there. Then they were denied access to the Olympic playing field to practice. So the team marched, en masse, to the stadium, scaled the fence and had their practice.

They had played four exhibition games in England and lost big in each of them. It didn’t look too promising for them to defend their title.

The Americans first defeated a Romanian team 37–0 before a crowd of 6,000. The French had also beaten the Romanians, so the championship game came down to the U.S. and France. The odds were 20-to-1 that the French would win. But when the games started, the Americans shook up the French with their athleticism, ferocious tackling, speed and punting.

William “Lefty” Rodgers of the U.S. team rocked the French star, Adolphe Juarraguy, with a hard tackle, and after Juarraguy was hit a second time, he was carried off the field not to return to the game. The Americans beat the French like a drum, 17–3, before 50,000 shocked spectators.

Some of the French in the stands couldn’t accept their loss and the hard play of the Americans and went ballistic. They refused to stand for the playing of the American National Anthem and beat up some of the few American spectators with heavy, gold knobbed canes, sending two Americans to the hospital. The officials and the Americans needed police protection during the ceremony for awarding medals and as they left the field.

Nevertheless, once the game was over, the French players, unlike the spectators, were good sports. They accepted their defeat with grace and helped the police provide protection to the American contingent as they left the playing field after the game.

Further testifying to the good will of the French rugby team, the Americans attended the big French Rugby Association banquet held the evening after the game.

As a result of the post-game dust-up, Olympic officials decided that rugby should be pulled out of the games, although it is scheduled to return for the 2016 games in Rio de Janeiro.

After the 1924 games, Hyland earned the nickname “Tricky Dicky” because of his running ability. He was one of a trio of sensational backs playing on the U.S. team along with Bob Devereaux and Charlie Doe (from Lowell High School).

Hyland, who had played rugby light at SI, went to Stanford, where he played football, baseball and track. In the 1926 Big Game against Cal, Hyland, on the first play from scrimmage, ran 48 yards to a touchdown in a Stanford 41–6 upset.

He later played in two Rose Bowl Games in 1927 and 1928 and earned entry into the Stanford Hall of Fame in 1961. Hyland became a sports writer for the Los Angeles Times and worked in the movie industry. He died on July 16, 1981, in Wawona, Calif. 

The 1920s

In 1923, the school hired (pictured above) Jimmy Needles, (“one of the leading half-backs of the Pacific Coast,” according to the September 13, 1923, Red and Blue) to serve as football coach for both the college and high school teams. Two years later, when Jimmy decided to work exclusively with the college athletes, the high school hired his younger brother, Frank Needles to replace him. Frank, a star at Gonzaga University, coached both football and basketball for six years. George Malley, the father of Pat Malley ’49, succeeded him in 1929. (Pat Malley, a star athlete in his own right, went on to coach football at SI and at SCU where he eventually became athletic director. He was honored posthumously in 1985 with the Christ the King award — SI’s highest honor to a graduate.)

The 1930s

SI's football stadium behind the Stanyan Street Campus.

SI's football team in 1932.

The football team, which left the AAA after the 1931 season for lack of success against the powerful city teams, went undefeated under Coach George Malley from September 1933 to December 1935, finally losing 12–7 to Loyola High School of Los Angeles in the state Catholic prep grid championship. Coach Malley was so popular in those days that you could hear him being interviewed on Bay Area radio stations. His success prompted SI to return to the AAA in 1936. TheSan Francisco Chronicle, at the end of the 1934 season, likened Malley’s team to the “Rockne Ramblers” of Notre Dame. (It seemed in those days as if all Catholic athletes in the U.S. were measured against the exploits of Notre Dame’s great teams.) “Today in San Francisco is an unsung, unnoted football team that embodies about everything that Notre Dame teams of years ago stood for — rambling, fight and Irish — and undefeated records. That team belongs to St. Ignatius High School. The Ignatians ramble over California a bit, next year they may even trek to Reno; Irish names dominate the lineup and the record is clean — not even one point is tabbed for opponents.”

The lightweight football team also enjoyed success, with the 1933 squad, coached by Eneas “Red” Kane, winning 13 games by shutting out each opponent and scoring a total of 219 points. The team was ranked first in Northern California but missed playing Bakersfield for the state championship. SI hoped to raise funds to travel south through the gate receipts of a game against Sacred Heart. When that game was cancelled, SI opted not to make the trip.

The 1940s

A 1940s-era football team.

The 1948 football team.

A 1949 football program.

After the end of World War II, SI and SH thought of a fitting memorial to the fallen alumni of both schools: a perpetual athletic trophy, given to the school that won at least two of the three games in football, basketball and baseball. This trophy, named for SI’s Bill Bruce ’35 and SH’s Jerry Mahoney, would also commemorate the oldest athletic high school competition west of the Rocky Mountains.

In The Red and Blue of January 29, 1947, reporter Watt Clinch ’47 predicted that “this trophy, as time goes by, will doubtless come to mean as much to SI and Sacred Heart as the legendary Axe means to Stanford and California and the Old Oaken Bucket means to Indiana and Purdue.”

The Chronicle’s Ken Garcia wrote an article about this trophy in 2001, in which he noted that “Bill Bruce was a gregarious, sharp teenager, who came to SI in 1931 on a scholarship as a virtual unknown. Bruce was an orphan who attended St. Vincent's School near San Rafael, commuting across the Bay by boat. He was a fine student and a good athlete who started as a lineman — defense and offense were not specified in those days since everybody played both ways.”

The February 26, 1947, edition of The Red and Blue added that while at SI, Bruce “repeated a year of Greek so he could raise his average from a 92 to a 95,” and was later elected salutatorian for his class.

“Bruce never made All-City,” wrote Garica, “but his charisma and quick mind charmed his classmates who elected him student body president. When he graduated in 1935, Bruce went to Santa Clara University, where he started on the Broncos team that beat LSU 21-14 in the Sugar Bowl. He spent his summers working as a park director at Grattan Playground in the Haight, before enlisting in the Navy in 1940, where he became an outstanding fighter pilot.

"‘Bill was a natural leader, extremely popular, who just had this air of command,’ said Fr. Harry Carlin, SJ, SI's executive vice president, who was one of Bruce's classmates. ‘He was a model for students then and he's a model for them now.’

“Bruce flew more than 50 combat missions in Europe during the early ’40s before being called back by the Navy to train young pilots at the Naval Air Station in Pasco, Washington, part of the Tri-Cities area in the eastern part of the state that combines desert terrain with steep canyons. And there, on April 14, 1943, Bruce, with a young trainee at the controls, refused to bail out when the pilot could not pull their plane out of a nosedive, and the two men were instantly killed. Bruce was 25.”

Garcia added that SH’s Jerry Mahoney, who grew up in the Richmond District, was tall enough to start on his school’s varsity basketball team as a freshman in 1941, “a feat so uncommon that it stands out almost as much as the fact that he made first team All-City in basketball and football his senior year. ‘He was one of the best athletes in the city,’ said Jack Grealish, ‘and I know, because I played with him and against him.’

“Mahoney enlisted in the Navy and, after boot camp, was assigned to a merchant ship for combat duty. In June 1944, just hours after the Henry B. Plant set out from the Atlantic coast, the ship was torpedoed by a German submarine. Every man on board was killed. Mahoney was 18.”

Even though the trophy match was not inaugurated until 1947, the schools mark the first year of the match-up as the 1945–46 academic year to commemorate the end of WWII. SH took the trophy that year, and SI the next. In all, SI has kept the trophy 40 times as of 2005, and SH 18 times.

In 1967 SI joined the West Catholic Athletic League and SH remained in the AAA until 1969. For two years, the schools split ownership of the Trophy, though they didn’t play each other on a regular basis during those years. Competition resumed in the 1969–70 academic year when SH joined the WCAL. By the end of that year, the schools had tied in football and split the other two games. SI kept the Trophy that year as it had been the last team to win it back in 1967.

Few traditions capture the joy of high school as this rivalry between SI and SH. If you go to Kezar Stadium, Big Rec Field or Kezar Pavilion for a Bruce-Mahoney match-up, you will find emotions tuned to a fever-pitch, voices hoarse from shouting and athletes primed to play at their peak. You will also find something more — a community of parents, alumni, students and teachers who are part of something special, something that transcends the specific time and place of one game and that connects them to the ideals of service and tradition that both Bill Bruce and Jerry Mahoney stood for in their brief lives and that they upheld in their deaths.

The 1940s also proved to be a watershed decade for Wildcat sports. The decade that saw the start of the Bruce-Mahoney Trophy games also saw the inauguration of the John E. Brophy Award along with heated basketball match-ups with Kevin O’Shea ’43 leading the Wildcats to a celebrated city championship over Lowell and the varsity football team defeating Polytechnic on Thanksgiving Day 1945, 13–7 for the city championship, led by coach John Golden. His team appeared before a crowd of 30,000 at Kezar Stadium with Poly the favorite, having won the Northern California Championship the previous year. But an SI fullback, senior Gordon MacLachlan, helped SI win 13–7 with a 48-yard run to the end zone and another TD from Mike Ryan. The basketball team recaptured the AAA crown in 1947, led by coach Phil Woolpert and remarkable play by George Moscone ’47, Cap Lavin ’48 and All-City Laurie Rebholtz ’47. (Cap Lavin, recalls classmate John Savant, “was a gifted passer who could get the ball to a teammate under the basket leaving his opponents flatfooted.” Lavin went on to become a legendary coach and teacher in Marin and helped to start the Bay Area Writing Project at UC Berkeley.) SI’s outstanding “mermen,” who included Phil Guererro, Jerry Brucca and Jack McGrowan, helped SI’s swimming team finish first in AAA competition in 1946 through 1948.

“This was war time, and outside of the San Francisco Seals, there were no professional teams competing,” recalled Grealish, who was named to the San Francisco Prep Hall of Fame in 1995. “The sports pages were pretty tough to fill. More often than not, you’d see banner headlines in the Chronicle reading ‘SI beats Balboa,’ followed by a blow-by-blow description of the game. This attention, and the fact that we beat Lowell in the final seconds in 1943, lent an artificial importance to high school sports. We had a tremendous amount of school spirit. It wasn’t uncommon to see 800 SI students walking down Stanyan Street to Kezar to watch a basketball game. We’d fill an entire side of Kezar with white shirts, and our games would draw capacity crowds of 6,600 fans. I don’t know how else to describe that spirit except as a big togetherness that we all felt. Maybe it was because the war was hanging over our heads. Perhaps, because of that spirit, we experienced a lot of success then.”

The success was also due to some talented coaches. Alex Schwartz, who served as head varsity football coach from 1942 to 1944, joined the athletic department in September 1940 after a successful career playing for USF. At one point, he coached football and basketball for SI — the sports he excelled in while at Mission High and USF. (Schwartz made the All-Pacific Coast football team in 1936 and 1937 and served as captain of the ’37 squad.)

While Schwartz was finishing his degree at USF, coaching frosh football there and working at the Golden Gate International Exposition on Treasure Island (running the lost and found department), his close friend Fr. Ray Feeley, SJ, told him of job openings for football coaches in Los Angeles and Denver. “My wife said she wasn’t about to leave San Francisco,” said Schwartz. Then in 1940, Fr. Feeley called him again to tell him of another job. “This one you can’t turn down,” he told me. “It’s at SI.” The starting monthly pay: $80.

His first year, Schwartz served as the football team’s line coach under Red Vaccaro, and in his second year, he took over the JV team. In 1942, when Vaccaro became the athletic director, Schwartz took over the head coach’s job. He coached standout players, including Bob Muenter, Don Gordon, Val Molkenbuhr, Charley Helmer, Dan Coleman, Dick Cashman, Bill and Bob Corbett, Jim Canelo and Jack Burke, who was also a champion discus thrower. However, though his expertise was in football, Schwartz gained more fame for coaching basketball when his 1943 team turned in an undefeated season.

Schwartz’s basketball career began when one coach left to join the California Highway Patrol mid-season, and Schwartz stepped in, getting advice from Bob Kleckner at USF. “SI had not won a single game that season before I took over, and it didn’t win a game when I first started coaching.” Despite the regular season losses, Schwartz’s team went on to win the Catholic school tournament at St. Mary’s College that year.

In 1942, Schwartz’s team featured the skillful play of John LoSchiavo ’42 (later to become president of USF) and came in second in the league, losing to Poly. “When I came back to school, I saw the principal, Fr. King, who said, “’Tis well we lost. The boys were getting too excited.” I responded: “You mean to tell me that you want your debating teams to come in second?”

Schwartz coached without an on-campus gym. He reserved the gym at Everett Junior High on 17th and Church Streets for his basketball team, but with school letting out at 3:15 p.m., students would take an hour by bus to get to the gym, leaving them less than an hour for practice. To speed up their trip, Schwartz bought a 1936 Ford panel truck and put seats in the back to carry two teams and manager Harry “Dutch” Olivier ’44 (later to become a Jesuit) to the gym, cutting travel time to 15 minutes.

The opportunity arose in 1943 to buy a bus when Student Body President Val Molkenbuhr ’43 convinced his father and uncle to make a donation to the school. “It was a goodly amount, but not quite enough for a new bus,” said Schwartz. He later saw an ad for used Army buses and drove down to San Luis Obispo to inspect them. There he ran into a mechanic he knew from the city who told him to buy a certain bus, as it had a brand-new engine. “I figured with the sale of the truck and the donation, I could swing it,” said Schwartz. “I came back and told Fr. King. He had to think it over. A few days later, he told me that my request had been denied. ‘You’re spoiling the kids,’ he told me. ‘No Jesuit school has a bus, not even USF.’”

Schwartz’s reflection on that decision was simple. “Those were interesting years.”

Despite the lack of sophisticated transportation, the 1943 team went undefeated. “You have no idea how exciting that was,” said Schwartz, who was carried, along with O’Shea, on the shoulders of rooters to the dressing room. The starting five that year included Kevin O’Shea, Harvey Christensen, Jack Scharfen, Jim Beeson and Tom Flaherty.

O’Shea wasn’t the only great athlete to be influenced by Schwartz. Jack Grealish ’44, a four-sport student, used to play baseball and then have Schwartz drive him in his truck to a track meet, with Grealish changing uniforms in the cab.

Schwartz spotted another great athlete, Joe McNamee ’44, playing intramural basketball at SI. “I saw him playing hunch at noontime and asked him to come out for the team. He said he couldn’t because he had size 14 feet and couldn’t find sneakers big enough to fit him. I called a sporting goods store in the city, and they told me to try a store in Oakland, which did stock shoes that size. I drove there, bought the shoes and gave them to Joe. He joined the team and turned out to be a good player for SI and USF.” McNamee eventually played professionally for the Rochester Royals in the 1950–51 season.

Schwartz also had high praise for Rene Herrerias ’44, who in February 1944 against the Lincoln Mustangs, was the first lightweight player ever to score 27 points in a single game. “In those days, an entire team might score 25 points in one game.” Herrerias later went on to great fame coaching for SI (and later UC Berkeley), leading the Wildcats to four AAA championships (1951 and 1954–56) and two Tournament of Champions victories in 1954 and 1955.

In 2004, Schwartz was inducted into the San Francisco Prep Hall of Fame for his talented coaching at SI, Mission and City College.

An Original ’49er: Eddie Forrest ’39

Learn even more about Eddie Forrest here.

Eddie Forrest ’39, who died in 2001 a month shy of his 80th birthday, was one of the original members of the San Francisco ’49ers. Forrest graduated from Presidio Middle School before coming to SI, where he excelled in basketball and football. At 5-feet, 11-inches and 215 pounds, he wasn’t the biggest linebacker SI had ever seen, but he was effective. He made the All-City team during his last three years with the Wildcats, playing for George Malley, and was chosen to play in the high school version of the East-West game, which pitted the best East Bay high school athletes against their San Francisco and Peninsula counterparts. He went on to SCU where he played offensive guard and linebacker for Coach Buck Shaw. He later enlisted during World War II and served as a paratrooper in Europe. In 1944, the Green Bay Packers drafted him, but because he was in the service, the draft wasn’t binding. “I was away from home so much, I didn’t want to go to Wisconsin to play,” he said in a 1992 Genesis interview. Then Buck Shaw, who served as the first ’49ers’ coach, signed him while he was still in Germany. Two years later, when the Niners played their first game, Forrest was in uniform, playing center, guard and linebacker for two seasons in the All-America Football Conference. He then returned to SCU where he coached with Len Casanova until 1951 following the Broncos’ victory over Kentucky in the Orange Bowl.

“I can remember when he used to practice with his team at the Polo Fields,” said classmate Bob Lagomarsino. “The ’49ers were 33 strong in those days. Eddie was a real rugged guy, but he weighed less than 220 pounds. In those days, you didn’t have to be a behemoth to play football.”

A member of the San Francisco Prep Hall of Fame and SCU’s Athletic Hall of Fame, Forrest always spoke fondly of his days as a ’49er. “Most of us were from the Bay Area, and we all knew each other before the ’49ers,” he said in a 1996 interview in the San Francisco Chronicle. “So we were a very, very close team. Since there were no other major-league pro teams here then, we were sort of quasi- or semi-celebrities. People knew us. Anybody in the Bay Area interested in sports knew about the ’49ers in those days. From the beginning, we got good crowds. We all lived in Parkmerced. The wives knew each other and socialized together. It was a very happy existence.”

Later, Forrest was active as a volunteer with the NFL Alumni Association, and he built a successful career as a savings and loan executive, retiring in the 1990s to spend time with his family.

“He couldn’t make too many of our annual reunions because of his bad knees,” said Lagomarsino. “But he did come to the 40-yearand 50-year reunions. He led the class in singing the fight song. He was one of the most popular guys in the class.”

SI had several other athletes play pro football, including Dan Fouts ’69, who made the NFL Hall of Fame as quarterback for the San Diego Chargers. 

The 1950s

A 1950s era cheering section; students formed the SI block with white shirts and blue sweaters.

Sidelines at a 1956 football game.

Gil Dowd ’57 earned entry into the SF Prep Hall of Fame for his football magic.

One of the stars of the day was Gil Dowd ’57 who helped lead SI to the AAA football championship in 1956. Dowd played on the frosh and JV teams and watched as the varsity struggled against strong teams from the AAA. By the time Dowd was a senior, it had been 11 years since SI had captured the league crown.

Something happened in 1956 to change SI’s luck. Varsity Coach Sarge MacKenzie left to teach at USF and Pat Malley ’49, whose father had coached at SI, took his place. Malley, who had been a star athlete both at SI and SCU, suffered an injury in his senior year at Santa Clara and, after serving in the Army, returned to SI to teach and coach. He brought along Gene Lynch ’49, his teammate from SCU.

Early injuries contributed to losses against Poly and Washington, but the Wildcats went undefeated after that and took the city championship by beating Poly and then Balboa for the Turkey Bowl game before a crowd of 30,000. “Coach Malley’s squad scored an early touchdown and had to rely on the defense the rest of the way. With three minutes to go in the game, Balboa had the ball first and goal. With their backs to the wall, SI’s defense tightened up and the Bucs were unable to cross the goal line. SI had won its second championship, as the scoreboard read SI 7, Balboa 6.”12

Dowd, who entered the Prep Hall of Fame in 2003, credited the entire team with the success. “My classmates Ed Rothman and Bob Isola and I each took turns excelling in the backfield. We each did our share of running.” Dowd eventually earned All-City honors and was named Player of the Year by two of the city papers. He also earned All Northern California Second Team and All Metro Team honors and was named East Bay–West Bay All Star Game MVP.

 

Coaches Pat Malley and Gene Lynch.

Coach Pat Malley & his Amazing Bag of Tricks
By Brian Hasset ’58

Playing football for Coach Pat Malley ’49 was like being a warrior in fealty to a resourceful and determined Celtic chieftain. Well, maybe that’s a little too much historical-romantic spin, but when Pat Malley returned to St. Ignatius in 1956, where his father had coached and he had been team captain, he brought a code and style that probably did derive from such roots. It was a good fit.

He was tough but imaginative. Practice sessions presided over by Pat Malley and line coach Gene Lynch were hard-hitting. When you were called to jump into the tackling circle, runners came at you from every direction, helmets lowered and knees pounding. Your job was to tackle one, then spin around and get the next and the next. It was no picnic, but there was also an element of play in those practices that brought out the best in us. Gordie Lau, who would later argue in the Supreme Court about equal educational opportunity, would let out a shout with each tackle, which Coach Malley played up to add a note of levity. Wind sprints sometimes became a game where first the Italians lined up and ran shouting down the field, and then the Irish, and then an ethnic assortment known as “the rest of you guys.” Off the practice field, Mr. Malley had a way of beaming a beneficent smile when you passed him in the hall that validated all your efforts.

Our offense was nicely balanced. Mick Doherty and Ron Tocchini were a running tandem that pounded defenses until they broke, and Ron Calcagno at quarterback could air out 30- and 40-yard passes to a talented corps of receivers, including Pete Ackenheil, who doubled as kicker of field goals, PATs (points after touchdown) and booming kickoffs. It was a team deep in athletic talent on which every player had honed his skills to fill a need.

When SI played Poly High in the Thanksgiving Day Classic in 1958, a share of the city championship was at stake. Poly, coached by old-time Santa Clara Bronco Milt Axt, had dominated the city league for years, and we had lost to them in the regular season 9–6. Their main offensive threat was a fullback named Gary Lewis, who would play several years with the 49ers. Like us, they were hard-hitting and seasoned. Their offense wasn’t as multi-dimensional as ours, but they were tough on defense and Lewis, a speedster at 6-feet, 3-inches and 220, was a dimension unto himself when he arced off tackle and headed downfield.

Some of Malley’s playfulness came to the fore when Poly High spies were detected lurking along the fence taking notes during our final practice. He called a team huddle, concocted four or five off-the-wall plays, and had us run through them, surely flummoxing the spies and very possibly setting up the confusion that Poly experienced in the game two days later. Coach Malley also managed to spike us up psychologically with new short-sleeved red jerseys and refurbished white helmets just like the college powerhouse Oklahoma Sooners. When we ran onto the field before 22,000 fans at Kezar Stadium, we felt sharp and cohesive, especially when we saw the Poly players doing jumping jacks in inexpertly washed uniforms on which red from the numerals had bled pink across the white jerseys. Score a subtle advantage for the Wildcats.

At this late date I can’t do a play-by-play description of the game. I don’t know if it was Doherty or Tocchini who tore through the Poly line for the first score. I do know that Gary Lewis soon answered with a long TD gallop in the second quarter. In the third, Coach Malley sent in a newly-installed trick play called Helter Skelter in which the entire line pulled left and Ron Calcagno seemed to be following the flow on a roll out. But then Ron planted his feet and reeled off a long cross field pass to Ed Nevin, who had run left with everyone else, but then cut back into the open flat for a touchdown.

It was a hot Indian summer day. Malley substituted freely, which kept our legs fresh. We kept the Poly defense on the field with a couple of drives that didn’t score but left them huffing and puffing. We were up by a few points midway through the fourth quarter — the score something like 14–9 — but Gary Lewis was always a threat to go all the way. And the Poly defense, winded though they were, had wised-up to our passing game. They were yelling, “Watch for Helter Skelter!” when we broke from the huddle in passing situations. We tried Helter Skelter a couple of times more, but Poly’s left corner hung back and easily broke it up. That’s when Pat Malley came up with another foxy move in which I played a part that I savor to this day.

I was standing on the sidelines, hoping we could hold the line, when Pat Malley called my name. I ran to his side where Ron Calcagno was standing. Our defense had pushed Poly back around their own 30. Our offense was about to take the field. Coach Malley fixed us with his fierce blue eyes and quickly mapped out a variation on Helter Skelter in which I, at right end, continued across the field, rather than cutting back against the student body left flow.

I hadn’t caught a pass all season. The good thing about my sudden insertion into the lineup was that I didn’t have time to get too nervous. Calcagno leaned over center Dave Favro, who would go on to play at UC Berkeley, and called the count. The play unfolded in basic high anxiety slow motion. Never fleet of foot, I pounded across the field on a diagonal, head down. At the point when Nevin had earlier cut back, I fired off whatever afterburners I could muster and looked back to where Calcagno had pulled up from his roll out and let fly with a somewhat wobbly pass. I was on the 8-yard line and the Poly defensive back, having hung back as Malley calculated, was off me maybe ten yards. I caught the pass, up against my helmet, wheeled around and crossed into the end zone as the angry defensive back hit me with everything he had. I felt nothing but unadulterated bliss.

Time running out, the Poly Parrots, in their sweaty, vaguely pink jerseys, were starting to wear that dazed look teams get in the final minutes of a losing effort. The sequence of scoring is a little blurred in memory, but at some point Pete Ackenheil kicked a long field goal to put the score somewhere around 23–9. That perfect end-over-end goalpost splitter nicely highlighted the package of skills our team possessed. We won that game with a beautifully balanced team effort, but also high on the list of positive factors was the craftiness of Pat Malley, who spontaneously responded to the game as it unfolded before him with one brilliant surprise after another. I have had many splendid Thanksgivings in the intervening years, but never have I floated 10 feet off the ground as I, and the rest of our band of warriors, did that day.

The 1960s

Coaches Doc Erskine, Vince Tringali and Gary Musante.

SI was ranked first in the nation in the 1960s after two undefeated seasons and 19 straight wins.

A 1962 football game.

Coach Tringali at a 1965 game.

Playing Balboa in 1965.

Against Lincoln in 1965.

SI Football Ranked First in Nation

Despite the plans to move the school in the 1960s, life continued its normal routine, especially in the realm of football. After Pat Malley left SI, the school hired Larry McInerney as head coach and Vince Tringali (a member of USF’s famous “Undefeated, Untied and Uninvited” football team) as his assistant. McInerney’s teams won the round-robin championships in the AAA for two years, in 1959 and 1960, but never won a Turkey Bowl championship game. Then, in 1962, Tringali took over as head coach and hired a remarkable assistant — Robert H. “Doc” Erskine, who left semi-retirement after many years of coaching college ball. Together, they helped SI in 1962 and 1963 win 19 straight games in two undefeated seasons and win consecutive AAA championships. (For each of those 19 games, Coach Tringali wore his trademark red Alpine hat.) On January 4, 1963, The San Francisco Chronicle announced that SI had tied with Miami High School of Florida for first place in the Imperial Sports Syndicate’s 1962 U.S. interscholastic football ratings based on votes from 56 coaches and sportswriters across the country.

The following is an excerpt from “Remembering the glory years of SI football,” first published in the Fall ’88 Genesis II:

By Robert Vergara ’76

The ’Cats opened the 1962 season against Balboa, and with three touchdowns in the second quarter, went on to a 29–6 win. Galileo and Polytechnic were SI’s next victims, with the Lions going down to a 39–0 defeat and the Parrots suffering a 26–0 shutout.

By the time the ’Cats defeated Lincoln in their fourth game of the season, it was clear that they were a major force in the league. In the team’s first four games, SI had scored 107 points to their opponents’ 12. Quarterbacks Lee French and Ray Calcagno and fullback Tom Kennedy sparked the Wildcat offense, aided in no small measure by one of the finest lines in SI football history — Bud Baccitich, Rudy Labrado and Gene Maher, to name a few of the stalwarts.

The ’Cats next took on Mission. Although the Bears had been picked by many to win the league, they too were bested by SI 49–0.

The following week, the Wildcats faced archrival Sacred Heart in a game televised as KGO-TV’s “Prep Game of the Week.” In those days, Channel 7 taped a high school football game played on a Thursday or Friday and broadcast the game the following Saturday morning with Bud Foster and Bob Fouts (the father of Dan Fouts ’69) doing the play-by-play. The TV audience saw the Wildcats defeat the Irish 22–6.

By this time, sportswriters, who early in the season had called SI a “good team,” were now agreeing with the Examiner’s Bob Sprenger when he wrote that SI’s 1962 football squad “has to be one of SI’s best teams in history.”

Next came the Washington game, which led to another victory for SI, and the ’Cats found themselves in the last game of the regular season. That contest, against Lowell, would decide the round-robin champion.

The score was close throughout. Finally, with less than 5 minutes remaining in the game, Ray Calcagno connected with Charlie Parks on a 48-yard pass to set up the winning touchdown. Final score: SI 19, Lowell 13.

The Indians fell into a three-way tie for second place with Mission and Lincoln. At that time the AAA had no structure for a four-team playoff. Only the top two teams met on Thanksgiving Day to decide the championship. Lowell won the draw and met SI at Kezar Stadium before more than 16,000 fans to battle for the title.

SI scored in the first quarter when Calcagno threw a 30-yard pass to Charlie Parks, putting the Wildcats on the Indians’ 2-yard line. Mike Sullivan scored on the next play, and Calcagno kicked the extra point, which turned out to be the margin of victory.

Lowell scored in the last minute of the first half, but the snap for the PAT was too high, and the Indians had to settle for six points. It was a defensive battle from then on as SI held on to a 7–6 victory.

The win gave the Wildcats the AAA championship, a 9–0 record and the first perfect season in SI football history. It was an auspicious start for Vince Tringali’s tenure as head coach of the SI football program.

Those who doubted that SI could continue its success into 1963 were jolted back to reality with the Wildcats’ first game of the new season against Mission, which had been a playoff contender in 1962. In the AAA opener for 1963, Mission fell to SI 58–0, and SI established two yet-to-be-broken records for most points scored and the largest margin of victory in a game.

Next, SI prevailed over Lincoln and Galileo. Once more the Wildcats and the Irish were television stars as they continued their ancient rivalry, featured in the “Prep Game of the Week.” SI maintained its dominance in a 35–0 whitewash. And once more the Wildcat defense — among them Greg Kolar, Dennis Brooks and Bob Unruh — excelled, prompting Bob Sprenger to call the SI line “possibly the finest collection of athletes in the City league in years.”

SI continued its winning ways against Balboa and previously undefeated Washington for its 15th and 16th consecutive victories. Playing in the rain at muddy Galileo field, the ’Cats finished the regular season by downing Lowell 27–6. Calcagno went over the 1,000-yard passing mark for the season as SI sewed up the round-robin championship.

The AAA returned to a four-team playoff format in 1963, and SI was paired with Lincoln while Sacred Heart and Washington were matched in the other playoff contest. The Irish and the Eagles met on Thursday, November 21, with Washington emerging victorious. The next day, SI and Lincoln were scheduled to meet to decide who would take on the Eagles for the title on Turkey Day.

But the stunning news from Dallas that morning altered the plans. Along with a host of other events across the nation, the playoff game was postponed as San Francisco joined in mourning the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

Thus, for the first time in many years, Thanksgiving Day in the city did not see the AAA football championship game. Instead, the postponed playoff game was held. The Wildcats easily handled the Mustangs 33–6, thereby earning their fourth straight appearance in the title game.

Nine days later, SI and Washington met for the crown, and 8,000 Kezar Stadium fans saw the Wildcats methodically put the Eagles away. SI scored once in the second quarter and twice in the fourth in rolling up a 21–0 shutout. It was SI’s 19th consecutive victory over a two-year period — another Wildcat football record, and SI finished as the top Northern California team.

The Doc Erskine Trophy

Robert H. “Doc” Erskine joined the SI coaching staff in 1962 after having retired from coaching college football, and he worked closely with Ray Calcagno, the quarterback for the Wildcats in his junior and senior years in the days when quarterbacks called their own plays. To learn what plays to call, Calcagno spent hours with Doc, who was a master strategist. “He gave me a good feel for the game,” said Calcagno, “and he influenced my decision to become a coach.”

Doc also had a good sense of humor. During a game against Galileo, Calcagno called a play-action pass. “All three of my receivers were open, and I threw it between two of them for an incomplete. When I came off the field a few plays later, I got on the phone with Doc, and he kindly reminded me that any one of those three could have caught the ball for a touchdown.”

After Erskine left SI, he became a successful head coach at Riordan before retiring in 1969 with a high school record of 29–6–1. The following year, SI and Riordan established the Doc Erskine Trophy to the school that won that year’s football game to honor an individual known for his generous spirit, gentlemanly qualities and knowledge of the game.

Even though Doc Erskine only coached at SI for a brief period, his legacy continues. “I’ve learned a lot about Doc through those whom he coached and influenced,” said Joe Vollert ’84, former head football coach. “There wasn’t any showmanship or flash to Doc. He coached players to execute their fundamentals well and to know their plays — elements that have been the cornerstone of SI’s program since he helped coach some of our all-time great SI teams. He influenced such people as Riordan’s head coach Frank Oross, former SI head coach and Seattle Seahawk offensive coordinator Gil Haskell ’61, and my head coach when I played for SI, Ray Calcagno. Ray had a large influence on me and what I did as a coach just as Doc had that influence on him. I’ve always hoped to carry on his legacy.”

From the AAA to the WCAL

Tringali had two lean years after his twin undefeated seasons but returned with another pair of league championships. This time, however, those championships came in different leagues. The 1966–67 season was the final time SI competed in the AAA. The following year, SI joined the West Catholic Athletic League as 121 of its students lived outside the city, and AAA rules (instituted in 1959) barred them from athletic competition.

For years, SI tried to change the rule, but to no avail. Even State Senator J.F. McCarthy, an SI grad, tried to repeal the rule, but failed. The issue came to a head after a March 21, 1966, baseball game that SI won 4–3. The losing team later filed a complaint that two boys on the team did not live inside the city. The league found merit in the complaint and fined SI a three-game forfeit.

Fr. Carlin asked that the forfeits and rules be overturned, and after some hard-fought negotiations, he hammered out a compromise with George Canrinus, the AAA coordinator of athletics, at a June 3, 1966, meeting. He offered Carlin a deal: extend the residency borders to include Daly City and Pacifica. Fr. Carlin checked his records and found that 125 students lived in those two towns and agreed to the compromise.

At a subsequent meeting of the AAA principals, however, that compromise was never put on the table. Instead, the principals voted only on the question of the repeal of the residency requirement, and that measure lost 7–3.

SI found itself in a tough spot. It had been a charter member of the AAA since 1923, and leaving would mean competing in a much stronger Catholic Athletic League. After the vote, SI chose to leave, despite arguments by alumni that the school would lose money by competing outside the city. In an Inside SI article in 1966, (Vol. 19, No. 2, p 6) Fr. Carlin argued that “it has become increasingly clear that while the residency rule has not affected the athletic program at St. Ignatius High School, it is having a serious effect on a school’s central purpose. Under these restrictions, the school cannot offer every boy a full educational experience. He is forced to become a spectator in activities that have an important bearing on his social and physical development.” He also noted that colleges look favorably on boys with athletic experience and that graduates who lived outside the city limits would be less inclined to send their sons to SI.

The Championship Seasons of 1966 and 1967

SI’s Board of Regents voted unanimously on October 6, 1966, to leave the league. But SI football left with a bang, winning the round robin with a 7–2 season and earning a spot against Lowell at Kezar in the Turkey Day game — the last time SI would ever compete in that city championship match. For this game, Tringali once again wore his lucky red hat that he had donned during his 19-game streak.

The Wildcats had lost key players to injuries, including first-string QB John Cercos, fullback Paul Schneider and right guard Jeff Braccia. Nonetheless, SI fought Lowell to a 14–14 standoff late in the fourth quarter. Then, with seconds remaining, QB Paul Contreras threw to Tom Schwab. A defender tipped the ball, and it went into the arms of SI’s Gary Hughes, who ran 23 yards to score a touchdown with 40 seconds left on the clock.

“It was an incredible moment,” said Boris Koodrin ’67, who played linebacker and left guard for the team. “The crowd tore down the goal posts, and we carried coach Vince Tringali around before a crowd of 10,000. I’m not sure if he liked being carried around, as he wasn’t the touchy-feely type.”

“It was the most exciting sports moment of my entire life,” added Fr. Sauer, then a scholastic at SI. “We all went wild, and although we scholastics were assigned to guard the goal posts, one was demolished by the crowd.”

The following year, SI was not expected to do well in the much stronger WCAL. In fact, some at SI argued that the school should remain in the AAA for fear of being dominated by the Peninsula and South Bay teams. However, in that first year in the WCAL, SI took first in football and basketball and had strong showings in all other sports.

The victories began in the fall with a football team that included all-league stars Mike Ryan ’69, Ray Washmera ’69, Bob Giorgetti ’68, Jim Figoni ’68, Mike Matza ’68, Randy Fry ’68, Mike Mitchell ’69, Dan Driscoll ’69, Bob Sarlatte ’68, Rick Arrieta ’68 and a junior quarterback named Dan Fouts ’69 (more on him later). After going 3–1 in preseason, the ’Cats went 6–0 in regular season play, beating both St. Francis and Riordan 26–20, St. Mary’s 35–6, Serra 27–7, Bellarmine 28–21 and Mitty 41–0.

Tringali stayed with SI one final year before leaving in 1969, with a record of 54–14–1, to help USF resurrect its football program. Jim McDonald ’55 took over for two years and Tom Kennedy ’63 for two more before Gil Haskell ’61 stepped in as head coach between 1973 and 1977. As testimony to Tringali’s legacy, both Haskell and Alan Saunders ’64 sent Tringali a photo of a game between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Seattle Seahawks played on November 24, 2002. Haskell was the offensive coordinator for the Seahawks and Saunders had the same position with the Chiefs. (He had also served as head coach for the San Diego Chargers). During that game, the two teams earned a combined 64 first downs, an NFL record. In the photo are both Haskell and Saunders and this inscription: “To Vince Tringali, in sincere appreciation for your leadership, guidance and support throughout the years. You’ve made a difference in our lives.”

Tringali, long after leaving SI, continues to make a difference in the lives of football players. Thanks to his intervention, Igor Olshansky ’00 made history as the first Soviet-born person ever chosen by the NFL when the San Diego Chargers tapped him in 2004 in the second round of the draft.

Born in Dnepropetrovsk, Ukraine, Olshansky came to the U.S. when he was 7 in 1989, and enrolled at SI for his freshman year. On his 15th birthday, he stood 6-foot, 6-inches tall and weighed 240 pounds. At an SI football game, Tringali ran into him and asked him if he had a son playing football.

“When I found out he was a student, I asked him why he wasn’t out there playing football,” said Tringali. “He told me he was a basketball player, and I said whoever told you that lied to you.” The next year Olshansky joined the SI football team, and he struggled a bit learning the techniques and rules, but it didn’t take long for the colleges to come knocking. He signed with the University of Oregon, the same school Fouts had attended, and became a favorite of fans there who chanted “I-gor” at each game. After Olshansky left college, Tringali was at his family home, sitting right beside him during the draft, when Igor got the call from the Chargers who eventually made him a starter on the defensive line. “And God help any quarterback he hits,” added Tringali.

Vince Tringali: The Other Side of Fear By Boris Koodrin ’67

Everyone has certain experiences along the way that they can look back on as milestones on their personal landscape. Playing football for Vince Tringali was one such landmark, and it has had a lasting effect on my life, the meaning of which continues to unfold. At the time it offered me the opportunity to face certain fears head on and come out on the other side. Tringali was an especially tough coach and was not known for his softness. But as any wise person can tell you, the ability to tell a convincing story is every bit as important to a teacher as are any of the other skills needed to pull someone through the eye of a needle.

Vince Tringali was a rite of passage. If nothing else, when we hit the field on any given Friday, we believed in our hearts that no team was better prepared to win. Practice was almost as tough as he was. I remember at one point Coach Tringali spent an incredible amount of energy inserting vertical slats into the cyclone fence surrounding the practice field across from USF. I was never quite sure if that was intended to keep out the prying eyes of opposing scouts or of the parents who would line up to watch their kids practice during the week. Whatever it was that he was planning, it called for a lack of witnesses and that, in itself, was a pretty unsettling thought.

One thing he provided to many of his young players was consistency. His way was black or white, and it left little room for any gray. His greatest contribution, however, was the high level of expectation that he held over our heads, and the intensity with which he would get us to rise to that level. Perhaps the most vivid memory I have of those days is of Vince Tringali delivering an inspirational pre-game speech about going beyond the pain and reaching down deep and delivering more than we had to give — you know, the usual stuff. He was asking the impossible from us because, in his book, that was what was required. I can’t really recall his words. What has stuck in my mind all these years is the sight of him holding his hand in the fire that he had built on the locker room floor. His hand remained fixed in the center of that fire the entire time he was addressing us. To this day I remember the intensity of the moment as I watched the glow slowly spread across the cold concrete like some primal ooze that was being unleashed in front of us. Transfixed, I succumbed to the moment and fell victim to the surge of raw invincibility that had taken over the room. I was recently reminiscing about that day with my good friend, Rocky Wair ’67, who played at left guard. As he recalls it: “I don’t know about you, but I remember that we literally flew out of that locker room on fire. Nobody in the world could have beaten us that day.”

I graduated SI having been touched by Tringali’s fire. Over the years that symbol has resurfaced many times to pull me through difficult situations. When push comes to shove, the strength of your personal fire can get you through anything, especially when facing life-threatening situations. Interestingly enough, I spend time these days teaching incarcerated gang members how to make fire using a primitive bow drill. Through dedication, discipline and a healthy dose of faith, they discover the ability to create their own physical fire. Fire has the ability to transform because it takes a certain amount of passion and commitment to achieve it. It can turn a hopeless survival situation into a picnic. When you learn about fire, it has the tendency to jump inside of you and become your teacher. And it can likewise transform a timid heart into a raging furnace.

I don’t remember what teams we played or what the score was the day Tringali built up our team’s fire, but it has remained an important personal symbol. Each one of us walked into Vince Tringali’s fire in our own way back then. The fears and doubts that once caused me to walk away from my life’s desire have now become the fuel that drives my own creativity. For me, it started an endless chain of fires that has taken me to the other side of my fears. Perhaps, just as importantly, it has convinced me of the power that an equally good story can have on one’s own students.

Dan Fouts ’69, NFL Hall of Famer

NFL Hall of Famer Dan Fouts ’69.

Fouts celebrating a TD in 1969.

The greatest quarterback ever to play for SI is undoubtedly Dan Fouts ’69, who went on to the University of Oregon and to the San Diego Chargers (where he played his final year under head coach and fellow Ignatian Alan Saunders ’64), setting numerous records and earning entry into the NFL Hall of Fame in 1993.

It’s no cliché to say that Fouts was born to play the game. His father, Bob Fouts, was an announcer for the ’49ers and for other sporting events, and he grew up around pro football players. “I’d like to take credit for teaching him how to throw,” said Tringali. “But I can’t. He picked up the sport through osmosis.” Fouts also met sports greats Wilt Chamberlain and Willie Mays through his father.

Dan transferred to SI in his sophomore year and started playing for Tringali. But because the coach didn’t favor a passing game, college scouts didn’t take much notice of him. “I begged USC to take Danny. I told them he can throw like the wind. He was tall but lanky — he wasn’t that big, but he was tough.”

Fouts loved his days at SI. “They were great years,” he recalled in a 1993 Genesis III interview. “The thing I appreciate most was the attitude that we had. It was one of confidence bordering on cockiness and arrogance. ‘We are SI.’ We are something special. And in those days, athletically, we were untouchable. We worked hard and had a great coach in Vince Tringali. That foundation really carried me a long way.”

He never threw an interception in his senior year at SI, and he helped SI earn the league title in his junior yera by beating a Serra team that featured Jesse Freitas and Lynn Swann. He ended up at Oregon, earning one of two athletic scholarships the school offered and setting 19 school records. The Chargers took him as a third-round draft pick in 1973, and he found himself playing alongside Johnny Unitas, then in his last season. By the time Fouts retired at the end of the 1987 season, he had become one of the league’s best quarterbacks, setting 42 team records and eight NFL records, including most 300-yard passing games. He helped the Chargers rise from the basement of the AFC West to become three-time AFC West champions. In all, as commander of Air Coryell, he passed for 43,040 yards and became the second-highest passer in NFL history. He is the third player ever to pass for more than 40,000 yards. He was selected to the Pro Bowl six times and made AFC Player of the Year in 1979 and again in 1982, this time for both the NFL and AFC. Three times he earned All-Pro honors. The year after he retired, the Chargers retired Fouts’ number 14, which he had worn from 1973 to 1987. He was inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame in 1993 in his first year of eligibility.

Fouts credits his success with “being at the right place at the right time and then taking advantage of the opportunities. I played for one team for 15 years, and that’s kind of unusual. When Don Coryell came to San Diego in 1978, he really made a difference in my career. We had good players and played an exciting brand of football. It was bombs away.”

After leaving football, he served as KPIX sports anchor, earning two Emmys, and anchored the Bay to Breakers coverage and the San Francisco Marathon. He hosted Game Day with Dan Fouts and found himself doing his father’s job, covering play-by-play for Niners’ preseason games. He left for ABC in 1997, first to announce college ball and then as expert analyst for Monday Night Football with Al Michaels and Dennis Miller for the 2000 and 2001 seasons. He had a small role in the Adam Sandler movie The Waterboy along with Brent Musberger and appeared in a Miller Lite Beer commercial with Ken Stabler of the Raiders. He continues to announce college and pro football for the NFL Network. He has received numerous honors over the years, including induction into the San Francisco Bay Area Sports Hall of Fame in 1997.

The 1970s

Above three shots: Practing in the early 1970s.

Stan Raggio ’73 carries the ball.

The football team in 1973.

The Wildcats in 1977.

Varsity football head coaches in the 1970s included Tom Kennedy ’63, Jim McDonald ’55 and Gil Haskell ’61. While their teams never won a league championship, they made their mark as exemplary and memorable coaches, especially Haskell, who coached from 1973 to 1977. “Anybody who played for him would tell you that his enthusiasm was infectious,” says SI Athletic Director Robert Vergara ’76. “He had the kind of personality that made you want to play hard for him.”

As a player at SI, Haskell grew frustrated with one of his coaches and, according to Vince Tringali, was ready to walk off the field and quit. “I told him that I thought he was a great football player. I told him not to worry about what the coach said, to keep his mouth shut and do what he said.” Haskell followed that advice and enjoyed much success at SI, making all-city in his senior year. At San Francisco State College, his team won three championships, and he played briefly in 1966 with the ’49ers and joined SI’s coaching staff in 1969. At SI he used coaching techniques he learned from ’49ers’ coaches Frankie Albert and Dick Nolan and his SI coach, Pat Malley.

After leaving SI, Haskell coached for USC, the LA Rams, the Green Bay Packers, the Carolina Panthers and the Seattle Seahawks, where he is the offensive coordinator working with Seahawks’ head coach and Lincoln grad Mike Holmgren and former SI coach Bill Laveroni ’66. In his first year with the Seahawks, Haskell coordinated the AFC’s top-ranked red zone offense, which gained 292.5 yards per game.

Backfield in Motion – Again
By Bob Lalanne ’73

(Bob Lalanne delivered this address to a meeting of the Board of Regents in 2002 after noting that among the regents were several members of the SI backfield from his days at SI.)

The most successful SI football season since the last WCAL Championship Team in 1967 took place in 1972 when the ’Cats went 8–2. The 1984 Wildcats were also 8 and 2 but also had one tie. Coach Tringali always said a tie is worse than a loss and that any team that would play for a tie is not worthy and are just a bunch of measly…. Unfortunately that tie greatly tarnishes that 1984 record.

At this meeting are regents who were also members of that record-breaking 1972 Wishbone backfield-in-motion, who dazzled the opponents with speed and smarts: quarterback Stan Raggio ’73, fullback Al Clifford ’73 and halfbacks Sam Coffey ’74 and Burl Toler ’74. I was a defensive lineman from that 1972 team, so I have some inside information I can share with you.

In 1971 we were 1–7–1. Most of us were juniors, so we had the seniors to blame. Head coach was Tom Kennedy who coached the offense and the backs, and Gil Haskell served as line coach. Gil, a great guy who now coaches for the Seahawks, was always full of energy and enthusiasm.

In spite of the poor 1971 season, Tom Kennedy saw something in these guys. Given their intelligence and ability to perform, Tom decided to throw out the entire offensive system from 1971 and over the summer install a version of the highly complex Wishbone offense. He also brought in a past SI and collegiate lineman to coach the line — Bill Laveroni.

Coach Kennedy, an SI and Santa Clara football great, was a super coach and had a great influence on us as players. He was incredibly organized, neat, in fantastic physical shape, a hard worker and very disciplined. He reminded me of Bill Walsh: He was a professor of the game who ran a tight ship.

Coach Bill Laveroni had a heart of gold. He was a classic, burly offensive lineman, a standout at SI who had a great career with UC Berkeley’s Golden Bears. His experience enabled him to share with the linemen the real tricks of the trade in the trenches. We felt that with Coach Laveroni we had a competitive advantage and a loyal teacher.

Fr. Sauer taught most of us English, but we also learned poetry from our coaches who told us we had to be “mobile, agile and hostile.” Our coaches also expanded our vocabulary. Coach Bill’s favorite word was “doofus.” He called me a doofus so many times that I began to believe him.

Stan, Al, Sam and Burl were a real combo, all fast and smart. Stan “the Man” was brilliant. He was always walking the halls with either Coach Kennedy’s playbook or his college level Greek and Latin books. As a defensive player, how many times have you looked across the offensive line and seen a wily quarterback who also majored in the classics and then went off to Dartmouth? Stan was smooth.

Al was like Linus in Peanuts, always muddy, curled in a ball, low to the ground and constantly pounding his helmet into lineman and linebackers so that Sam and Burl could run for glory. Al was relentless, and when he did carry the ball, you hardly knew it because he never changed his pounding style.

Sam Coffey had style and a constant grin on his face, even when he took a hit. Do you remember the old black-and-white glossy action football photos in yearbooks from the ’50s? Even when Sam cut up the field, he had the unique ability to cut, freeze (to let the photographer shoot) and then score. He was another of Coach Kennedy’s backfield who would study at Dartmouth.

And finally there was Burl Toler, Jr. He was all business, and nobody could catch him. Coach Laveroni always said the first priority as a defensive end was to turn the halfback up-field and to never, never let him get outside and around you. I liked that approach, because if I turned Burl to the inside, even if I missed tackling him, I was successful in containing the perimeter, and the inside linebacker would then have to catch him.

Burl had a great career as a running back at SI, and he had even a greater career at UC Berkeley as linebacker. When he showed up at UC Berkeley the year after me, he was just as quick as ever but 40 pounds heavier. He was moved to linebacker and became the quarterback of the defense not only because of his athletic ability but also because of his smarts. Yet another Jesuit trained athlete.

We went 8–2 and were very close to going 10–0. We barely lost to Serra in a mud bowl, missing a long field goal with little time remaining. We were convinced Serra watered down their field on top of the recent rainstorms to slow down the Regent backfield.

We beat Mitty and SH and shut out Bellarmine at Kezar 21–0. Against Bellarmine, I tipped a pass and intercepted it — a defensive end’s dream. After spinning, faking, juking and pulling a “Sam Coffey,” I returned the ball up the sidelines for a 3-yard return. I could have gone all the way, but fellow defensive lineman and future 4-year starter at Stanford, Alex Karakozoff, and Tom Corsiglia ’73, a future Santa Clara lineman, tackled me out of shear excitement.

The week before our championship game against Riordan, we played St. Francis under the lights. They had a very good team, but we just rolled over them. We were hitting on all cylinders. Our final game was the WCAL championship game against Riordan the following week. It took place at Lowell because Kezar was just too wet and the ’49ers were playing the next day. The SI stadium couldn’t hold enough people. It was a very full house.

Riordan had a great quarterback in Mike Carey who later played at USC. They were coached by Bob Toledo who, until recently, coached at UCLA for years and won a few Rose Bowls. It was one of those games that whoever had the ball last on offense would probably win. I forget the final score. Maybe it was 28 to 24. Some might remember that late in the fourth quarter Stan and Xonie Lloyd, our wide receiver who later tutored Jerry Rice, barely missed hooking up on a deep sideline route with us down by a few points.

In any event, one summer 30 years ago, Tom Kennedy saw in these four athletes something special. I can’t think of a better place for the wishbone backfield of ’72 to reunite than here on the SI Board of Regents. May the four of you continue to help bring SI across the goal line for years to come.

By Loring R. Tocchini ’80

(Loring Tocchini was the fifth member of the Tocchini family to graduate from SI.)

I was a freshman in the fall of 1976, and the varsity football team was preparing for a home game against Bellarmine. The varsity squad was in a position to capture the first championship football title for the school since moving from the Stanyan Street campus. I remember the excitement around the school that week was intense. There were articles in the paper about the upcoming game as well. SI had come out of the 1950s and 1960s with many football championships, but none so far in the ’70s.

The roster of names for that team read like an “Old San Francisco” ethnic montage: Cipolla, Barberini, Rocca, Shannon, Murphy, Clancy, Garvey … the list goes on. It’s trite but true: Each member of that squad brought something special to that team, but they shared in common a strong work ethic. They came from families with proud ethnic heritages that are very much a part of the make-up of our country, city and school. They were also young men whom a freshman could look up to and try to emulate.

Coach Gil Haskell worked the varsity squad hard that week. I was a member of the frosh football club that year, and I can remember heading home each night that week after practice and seeing the varsity still at it. I would stop and watch for a while from the top of the stadium stands. You could smell the scent of cut grass coming off the field in the cool fall air. The stadium had no lights, and nightfall, as it always does that time of year, would come on fast. The only thing you could see were the silhouettes of these athletes running through their drills with the backdrop of the Pacific Ocean behind them. If the play didn’t run smoothly, you could hear coach Haskell yell, “Run it again!” This went on each afternoon that week until there wasn’t any more light to work with at the end of each day. After rigorous wind sprints, these guys would come off the field looking as if they had just been through battle.

Coach Haskell was preparing them for what he knew was going to be a tough game. He was always upbeat as he would say, “Men, enthusiasm is the force that drives momentum.” He preached it to his squad and insisted the other coaches approach their daily routine on the field the same way. That attitude became infectious. Every player did his best to encourage his partner to take his game to the next level, especially that week.

Game day came on Friday. There were banners all over school proclaiming, “Beat the Bells!” and “Ring the Bells!” I can remember the stands at the beginning of the game being packed on both sides of the field with students, family, alumni and friends from both schools. The stadium went from crowded to standing room only as the game wore on. In fact, during the last half of the game there were people standing on the track, sitting on the cyclone fences at the south end of the field and standing all over the grassy sections at each end of the field. There were even people in their front room windows on Rivera Street watching the game.

The cheering went back and forth from each side of the field. I can remember the head cheerleader for SI, John Forsyth, yelling to the student body that he wanted “echo quality” cheers. “Go Cats!” “Smash the Bells!” The cheers rang out. When the student body cheered loud enough, the cheer would echo off the houses on 39th Avenue. It was unreal.

SI led for most of the game, but the Bells fought back to a 15–15 tie as the final gun sounded. Nightfall was descending quickly upon the stadium, and emotions from both sides of the stadium were running high. Since a championship was on the line, a “California tie-breaker” was instituted. Each squad had four plays to advance the football. The football was placed on the 50-yard line, and the team that advanced the ball the furthest would win the game. All I could see on the field were the silhouettes battling back and forth, just as I had seen during practice.

When it was all over, SI had lost by what someone said was about a foot. My voice was gone from yelling cheers. I remember seeing our players coming off the field with tears in their eyes, exhausted. They had given everything they had on that field that afternoon and there was nothing left to give. Coach Haskell led his team into the field house at the north end of the field after they had congratulated the other team, and then they closed the doors. After a brief moment of silence, you could hear the school fight song rising over the stadium, sung by the players inside the field house. You couldn’t have written a better script to this game except to include a win. These men were proud of themselves and the school they represented.

I felt proud of those guys and proud to be associated with SI. Revenge can be somewhat sweet though. The following year, although there wasn’t a championship on the line for SI, we traveled to Buck Shaw Stadium at Santa Clara University to face Bellarmine, then ranked the number-one high school football team in the country. No one gave us a chance of winning. We shut the Bells out 8–0 in a defensive struggle. It was one of hardest hitting games I have ever seen.

NFL Coaches Gil Haskell ’61, Al Saunders ’64 & Bill Laveroni ’66

From left: Gil Haskell and Bill Laveroni.

Gil Haskell ’61 and Bill Laveroni ’66, both coaches for the Seahawks, were about the only guys in Seattle not blaming the referees for loss of the Superbowl last January, 2006.

Haskell, the offensive coordinator, and Laveroni, the offensive line coach, said their team lost for one simple reason — the Pittsburgh Steelers just played better.

“We didn’t score when we had the chance,” said Haskell, who already wears a Superbowl ring from his days coaching with the Green Bay Packers. “I learned at SI that there are no excuses. When you’re raised the Jesuit way, you learn how to handle success and defeat. You have to be bigger than one game and know that here’s more to life than football. We simply have to ask ourselves why we lost and them come back and improve so that we don’t lose the next time.”

Laveroni also credited SI “as the place where it all started for me. The scholastics and priests at SI taught us work habits and discipline. They taught us to be on time and to do things the right way. I cherish what I learned at SI. It got me through the tough times and gave me the determination to keep on plugging.”

The two men aren’t the only San Francisco natives working for the Seahawks. Head Coach Mike Holmgren and Special Teams Assistant John Jamison are both Lincoln grads from the Class of 1966 and played against Laveroni in high school.

“The four of us will find ourselves sitting around a table late at night discussing offensive strategies, when all of a sudden we’ll talk about a guy we knew from SI or West Portal Junior High where Mike and John hung out. We’ll talk about Big Rec and all the baseball fields where we saw so many great players. We’ll relive the games we played against each other or against Galileo and O.J. Simpson. It’s our way of getting back to San Francisco because we don’t get back there that often.”

San Francisco, however, pays a visit to Haskell and Laveroni from time to time. “Ever since I moved to Seattle,” said Laveroni, “I’ve been contacted by many SI guys who live here now — guys like Joe Connor and Phil Nino. I haven’t seen these guys since we left high school in 1966. And many others from my class — Fred Tocchini and Steve Cannata, for example — are sending me emails. I love having those contacts.”

Laveroni had his start in football at SI, where he played all four years and made the All-City team in his senior year along with Holmgren and Jamison. At Cal, Laveroni majored in criminology and played football. He has coached ever since graduating from college, first at Cal and USF before arriving at SI from 1972 to 1976 to work with Haskell.

After leaving SI, Laveroni served as head coach at Piedmont High School and worked at Cal, Utah State, San Jose State, DeAnza, Rutgers, and Vanderbilt. He also coached for the San Jose Sabercats. In short, says Laveroni, “I have worked at every level of football except Pop Warner.”

Laveroni started at Seattle in 2001, first assisting the head line coach for two years before taking over that position. He loves working with linemen, whom he refers to as “lunch pail guys who don’t expect accolades. All they want is respect from their teammates for the hard work they do. I wish young high school players could watch how hard these men work at their profession, studying film and writing down every detail of every play. These men work 8 to 5 seven days a week.”

While Laveroni doesn’t aspire for a different coaching assignment, he thinks Haskell would make an excellent head coach. “He deserves to be one. He’s a great strategist and is detailed, organized and professional. His work habits are unbelievable.”

Haskell first started playing halfback at SI for Pat Malley and, later, for Vince Tringali, on the championship teams of 1958 and 1960. “Pat Malley and Gene Lynch, his assistant, made me feel like I was every bit a part of the team, even though I was only a sophomore.”

At San Francisco State, Haskell played defensive back for four years along with classmates Tim Tierney, Mike Burke, Dennis Drucker, Tom Manney and Paul Richards. After graduating with a Bachelor’s degree in physical education, he tried out for the ’49ers.

He played two games with the team. For the first, against Dallas, he had to cover Bob Hayes. In his second game against Cleveland, he was assigned Paul Warfield. “On Monday, Coach Christiansen told me that it’s time for me to be a coach.” That began a 22-year association with the ’49ers helping equipment manager Chico Norton.

After three years coaching at Riordan, Haskell returned to SI in 1969 and later served as head coach for five years (between 1973 and 1977), amassing a 35–14–2 record and leaving a mark as one of SI’s greatest coaches. He also made a point of bringing four seniors to each home game for the ’49ers where they served on the sidelines as ball boys.

“The greatest fun I ever had was coaching high school. Your influence on young men is so big. These days, I coach young men who are 22 and older. I still have an influence on them, but it’s not the same. There is something special about the high school years.”

After leaving SI, Haskell worked with special teams and wide receivers at USC under head coach John Robinson for five years, helping the Trojans compile a 22–1–1 record and win the national championship in 1978. He coached Marcus Allen and Charlie White, both Heisman winners, before leaving for the Rams, where he worked with Robinson another nine years, coaching such stars as Eric Dickerson.

He left for Green Bay in 1992 and helped his team win two trips to the Superbowl — in 1996, when the Packers beat New England, and in 1997 in a loss to Denver.

That he ever made it to the first Superbowl is a miracle. While coaching from the sidelines in a game against Dallas in 1995, Haskell was hit hard during a play and knocked out. “I woke up in Baylor Hospital in Dallas, looked around the room, and saw nothing but flowers,” Haskell recalls. “I thought I was in the mortuary. But I was lucky. Despite being smashed up pretty good, I came through with no lasting injuries.”

After six years with Green Bay, Haskell served as offensive coordinator for the Caroline Panthers for two years before leaving for Seattle. His success with the Seahawks has been remarkable, and he hopes to be tapped as head coach for his own team some day.

Right now, he and Laveroni are focusing on next season, and both are optimistic. “We’ve got a young offensive football team that has the ability to go back to two or three more Superbowls in the next five years,” says Haskell.

The trick to doing that, adds Laveroni, “is to focus on off-season conditioning. These guys have been playing football for seven months. It takes a toll on their bodies, and they need recovery time. We have to be smart about how to prepare so we don’t have a rash of injuries.”

The most important preparation, Haskell adds, is spiritual. “Every Sunday before a game the Catholics on the team go to Mass together. I always remember doing that before games at SI. My time at SI and the people there — Fr. Carlin, Fr. McFadden and Pat Malley especially — have been so influential to the success I’ve had. I’ll never forget them.”

Note: In addition to Gil & Bill, Al Saunders ’64 has served as an NFL Coach. He coached against Haskell when the Kansas City Chiefs and the Seattle Seahawks played on November 24, 2002. Haskell was the offensive coordinator for the Seahawks and Saunders had the same position with the Chiefs. (He had also served as head coach for the San Diego Chargers — the only SI grad to serve as an NFL head coach). During that game, the two teams earned a combined 64 first downs, an NFL record. The men had a photo taken of themselves after the game and sent it to former SI coach Vince Tringali. In the photo are both Haskell and Saunders and this inscription: “To Vince Tringali, in sincere appreciation for your leadership, guidance and support throughout the years. You’ve made a difference in our lives.”

Read more here about Al Saunders, who is Cleveland's senior offensive assistant coach. Ironically, he did not play football while at SI as he was ineligible, as the AAA league only allowed SF residents to compete. Al swam at SI instead.

The 1980s

Coach Ray Calcagno ’64.

A member of the team circa 1989.

Though SI failed to win a league championship in the 1980s or 1990s, most athletes from those years would say they played for a winning team. They would point to Ray Calcagno ’64 as the reason why.

Calcagno was a star on SI’s number-one ranked football team as a junior and senior. In 1963, he completed 75 of 117 passes for 1,290 yards and 18 touchdowns, making him the top Northern California high school quarterback for passing percentage. He went to SCU, graduating in 1972 with a degree in business, though his college career was interrupted by a stint in Vietnam, where he served with the Army’s 101st Airborne Division. Upon returning to the U.S., he coached at USF, finished his degree at SCU and then coached at St. Francis High School for seven years alongside his brother, Ron Calcagno ’60.

He led the varsity Wildcats at SI between 1979 and 1986 and then again from 1989 until 1992. He took SI to its first CCS appearance in 1983 after a 7–2–1 record. Selected as a Division I at-large team, SI upset Los Gatos 18–14 led by sophomore quarterback Dan Vaughn who ran for one touchdown and threw a 74-yard touchdown pass to junior tailback Tyrone Taylor. In CCS quarterfinal action against Saratoga, SI lost with 2 seconds remaining after Saratoga scored a field goal to win 10–7.

Another favorite memory for Calcagno was the reopening of Kezar Stadium, which had closed in 1989 for remodeling and opened one year later. SI played the first day game and first night game in that newly remodeled stadium, with the Wildcats walking through the same tunnel trod on by generations of ’49ers.

His best memories, he says, are of the boys he coached and the men he coached with. A resident of Mountain View, he decided to leave SI to avoid the grueling commute. He coached football at Mountain View High School between 1992 and 1996 and still works there teaching PE.

The 1990s

In 1992, Ray Calcagno ’64 left SI and Joe Vollert ’84 became one of the youngest men, at 26, ever to serve as varsity football coach. Vollert had played under Calcagno and at SCU under Pat Malley ’49 and his son Terry Malley. As a senior at SI, Vollert earned both the Brophy Award and the General Excellence Award. He made a name for himself early on as a new kind of coach, one who taught Ignatian values both indirectly, through example, and directly, by stressing them to his athletes. When he retired in 2004, he had earned the respect of hundreds of athletes and of all of his coaching staff who admired the calm attitude and healthy values he brought to each game.

One of Vollert’s early tests came in his first year as coach. SI and SH marked the 100th anniversary (albeit one year early due to a typographical error in one newspaper story) of the first time the two schools met back in 1893 for a St. Patrick’s Day rugby game. The Irish of Sacred Heart came decked out just for the event with special jerseys reading “Beat SI” on the fronts and “Mahoney” on the backs in memory of their deceased alumnus Jerry Mahoney of Bruce-Mahoney fame. SI may have lost that first match-up in 1893, but the special jerseys didn’t provide the Irish with luck this time around. SI beat SH 7–3 before a crowd of 7,000 at Kezar Stadium and kept the Bruce-Mahoney Trophy at SI that year.

Vollert’s favorite memories of that decade include Joe Dekker ’98 carrying 33 times against St. Francis when SI won 19–0, Joe Lourdeaux ’98 kicking four field goals in that game, Alex Buich ’98 playing a great game to beat Bellarmine at Kezar in 1996, Drew Virk ’99 and Tripp Jones ’99 stopping Bellarmine on the goal line to seal a 21–14 win, Anthony Devora ’99 returning a punt to ignite SI against San Lorenzo Valley, and Sean Pailhe ’97 catching a fake punt for a key play against Del Mar in the CCS playoffs.

“I’m also very proud of some of the teams that struggled,” Vollert said in a Genesis IV interview. “One of the best teams had guys who stuck together despite a 1–8–1 season. No one wants to lose games, but I was proud of how those players took care of one another and of how hard they practiced and played. I was just as proud of them as teams that went 8–4.”

Vollert also took pride in how well his players combined scholarship with athletics. With the exception of one year, he had one or more players named as scholar athletes by the National Football Hall of Fame in each year he coached. “We preach all the time about integrity: If you’re going to work hard on the field, it’s a matter of integrity to work hard in the classroom. Our scholar-athletes represented that success.”

In 2004 Joe Vollert retired from the varsity coaching job after a dozen years as head coach, the longest anyone has ever held that job in the school’s history. Steve Bluford ’84, who served with Vollert as co-captain in his senior year at SI, took over the job. When Vollert received the head-coaching job, the first call he made was to Bluford to convince him to leave a career in physical therapy to teach and coach at his alma mater.

Bluford, the school’s first African-American varsity coach, also ran track at SI and played football at UC Santa Barbara where he received his Bachelor’s degree in psychology. A longtime psychology teacher, PE teacher and department chairman — as well as moderator of the Association of African American Students — Bluford also served as head JV coach from 1994 to 2001, leading his team to the WCAL championship in 1995. He proved his ability to lead the varsity Wildcats in 2004 by beating Sacred Heart 34–0 at the September Bruce-Mahoney game and finishing the league 4–2, including a 61–26 drubbing of St. Francis, setting a school record for the most points scored in a varsity football game.

“Steve cares deeply for his players because he blends teaching, motivation and discipline better than any coach I’ve ever worked with,” said Vollert. “He demands the most out of the kids, and they really respond. I’ve seen over the years that he has a way of getting their hearts. They really love him.”

Coach Joe Vollert ’84: 1992 to 2004

Coaches & classmates Joe Vollert ’84 and Steve Bluford ’84.

A 2001 game.

Above three photos: 2002 football at SI.

A cheering section at Kezar during the 2003 Bruce-Mahoney game.


The day after the varsity football team won the Bruce Mahoney game against Sacred Heart Cathedral last September, head coach Joe Vollert ’84 sent the faculty this email:

“Please excuse the ‘preachy-ness’ of this, but I think we have a great ‘teachable’ moment this week with our students and our school spirit. We had a great cheering section on Friday night that topped off a wonderful Spirit Week and a fine liturgy on spirit by Fr. Sauer. But I am afraid that folks have fallen into judging our season, a particular senior class and a school year on whether we ‘win the Bruce’ or not. We have a great opportunity to commend our students on their spirit Friday night and then to encourage them to bring that spirit to the rest of our season and, more importantly, to all the sports and activities (not just football) that we do here. The spirit our students bring to their activities and in support of other activities can have a huge impact on the mood around the school. — Thanks, Joe.”

Few teachers were surprised by this sort of message from Coach Vollert. They had seen this same selfless attitude time and time again in his 12 years leading the Wildcats.

They were surprised, however, by the announcement of his retirement. Here he was, only 37 years old. But even at that youthful age, he had served as head football coach longer than any other man in the history of the school.

His impact on the program has been profound. As SI Athletic Director Robert Vergara ’76 noted, “During his tenure, Joe earned wide respect for his knowledge of the game, his preparation, his worth ethic and his professionalism, all of which have been first rate. Above all, Joe has been the embodiment of the ideals we strive for at SI: a man of faith, a man of honor, an outstanding teacher and role model. We are grateful to Joe for making all the personal sacrifices that are a part of serving in this very demanding and important assignment.”

While a student at SI, Vollert played football (as receiver and defensive back), basketball and baseball all four years, served as Block Club President and received the Brophy Award and General Excellence Award. He majored in English at SCU where he played football for two years, the first under former SI head football coach Pat Malley ’49 and the second for his son, Terry Malley. He returned to SI in 1988 to teach English and, later, math.

Vollert, who will continue teaching and directing SI’s summer school, is turning the football program over to Steve Bluford ’84, who is also a 12-year veteran of the coaching program.

Q. What coaches have influenced you and taught you something about the ministry of coaching?

At SI, my coaches were great teachers. I always believed that excellent coaches are excellent teachers. I felt absolutely privileged to play under Ray Calcagno ’64, from whom I learned much about football, life, teamwork and commitment. I played under Bob Drucker ’58, from whom I learned details about preparation and game situations. I played under Jim Dekker ’68 from whom I learned a lot about practice and intensity and putting in maximum effort.

These were three quality men to play under. As head coach, I felt I was passing on what I learned from them. Ray, in turn, was influenced a great deal by Doc Erskine. He was passing on what Doc passed on to him, and I did the same, passing on what Ray, Gil Haskell ’61 and Doc Erskine had established before me.

Q. What were some of the highlights of your own athletic career?

We played in the basketball state championship against Long Beach Poly after winning the Tournament of Champions in Northern California. I had a blast playing with guys like Levi Middlebrooks, David Wilson, Danny Oyharcabal and Paul LaRocca. But football gave me real team experience in a unique way. Eleven guys on the field learned to play as a unit. And the many dynamics and challenges of football drew me into coaching. I loved playing basketball and baseball, but the teamwork of football left an impact on me.

When I was a freshman, Chuck Murphy ’61, had a tremendous amount of influence on me, and I became a coach and a teacher because of him. Playing on his frosh football team, I was the last one to get pads. I was on the cusp of being cut or kept. I stuck with it and played under Shel Zatkin  sophomore year. I fell in love with the sport and the experience. And Fr. John Murphy, SJ ’59, the team chaplain, was able to articulate the experience of playing football in a way that was very inspiring.

Q. What are the sorts of values you try to communicate to your athletes?

We tried to teach discipline in very concrete and specific ways. As coaches, we discussed discipline all the time. A lot of people confuse it with punishment, but we feel that it is a powerful and positive way of achieving our goals. We instilled into our players that discipline involves making choices, and that they had choices to make every day at practice and at school — choices like running hard at a summer workout or taking it easy, like getting up for a 6:30 a.m. workout or sleeping in, like knowing the count and getting off the ball or jumping offside, like doing their homework or slacking off. All these choices involve discipline and sacrifice.

Our players sacrificed their free time and social lives, but in doing so, they grew in their discipline in a way that benefited both the team and themselves. We put a high value on being in good shape and having a strong faith. I spoke directly to them about faith, especially on game day, making clear the connection between the gifts God has given us and how we should use them to the fullest extent on the playing field — not for any self benefit, which is a hollow experience, but because of the guy next to them.

That is a lasting experience — something that goes beyond the goals of the game. It stays with you a lifetime. It’s a tremendous experience to play on a genuine team with guys who really know the game, who love playing it and who have a genuine friendship with one another. I’ve coached guys who are friends for life. What a great gift that is! It was my role as a coach to mold them, to create an environment where they could explore their gifts and talents to their fullest, and where they could feel free to take risks and succeed or fail. These kids found that by extending themselves, they found things about themselves they never thought possible.

I’ve found that gardening is an appropriate metaphor for coaching. My job is to till the soil, make sure it’s healthy — filled with the proper nutrients — and weed and water it. Gardeners can’t make plants grow, but they can create a positive environment for plants to grow.

We consciously tried to mold the program in the philosophy and goals of school. It was important to my staff that the football program be an extension of those goals. We know we have the opportunity as coaches to affect even more deeply student athletes than what we can do in the classroom. There’s more, something extra on the line, when you’re on the field in the middle of a competition.

Q. What are you most proud of in your 12 years as coach?

With the exception of one year, I had one or more players named as scholar athletes by the National Football Hall of Fame. Each year, that group selects two players from San Francisco, one back and one lineman, for a scholarship. This year it’s Kevin Bianchi ’04.

We preach all the time about integrity: If you’re going to work hard on the field, it’s a matter of integrity to work hard in the classroom. Our scholar-athletes represented that success. Ironically, the one young man most qualified to receive that award never did — Chris Baugh ’95, who went on to medical school at Johns Hopkins where he was an Academic All American.

Q. How has your own Ignatian spirituality affected the way you coach?

We talked about finding God in all things, even in the locker room and on the playing field. We tried to connect our faith to our experience by having a service in the locker room before the game. You don’t have to go to a chapel to find God. The locker room was our gathering place, and God was very present there in the intensity of preparing for a game. Football may just be a game, but I hoped to show our players the connection between the gifts God has given them and the pouring forth of those gifts on the field.

Q. How did you grow as a coach?

I was the youngest football coach SI had ever had. When you go from 26 to 38, you’re bound to grow. But I’m most proud of the growth in our coaching staff. We now have eight excellent and passionate on-campus coaches who are committed to the mission of the school. I’m also proud that a number of coaches played for me. Matt Stecher ’93, John Regalia ’93, Gabe Saucedo ’95 and Eamonn Allen ’98 had a good enough experience that they wanted to return.

Also, as a father, I now realize the importance of other adults in my children’s lives. For all my players, I ask myself: “If this were my son, how would I want him coached?” I hope I challenge my players to be better men. I always felt that I was a teacher first and that coaching was the best extension of my teaching.

Q. Is there a highlight season for you?

We had a couple of great seasons where we went to the CCS semifinals. But I remember some great moments more than anything else: Joe Dekker ’98 carrying 33 times against St. Francis when we beat them 19–0; Joe Lourdeaux ’98 kicking four field goals in that game; Travis Denning ’01 intercepting passes to seal victories against SH and Bellarmine; Alex Buich ’98 playing a great game to beat Bellarmine at Kezar in 1996; Drew Virk ’99 and Tripp Jones ’99 stopping Bellarmine on the goal line to seal a 21–14 win; Anthony DeVora ’99 returning a punt to ignite us against San Lorenzo Valley; Sean Pailhe ’97 catching a fake punt for a big play against Del Mar in the CCS playoffs. Those and so many more I remember.

I’m also very proud of some of the teams that struggled. One of the best teams had guys who stuck together despite a 1-8-1 season. No one wants to lose games, but I was proud of how those players took care of one another and of how hard they practiced and played. I was just as proud of them as teams that went 8-4.

Q. Did the pressure to win ever get to you?

Pressure is self-imposed. I never received pressure from the school. Part of being a fan I the stands is you get to second-guess and criticize the coach. But the next season will roll around. You have to make a choice if that pressure will affect you or not. For the most part, I had tremendous support from parents who saw their kids growing and having positive experiences. I told parents that playing football should make their kids better sons and better young men.

I was gratified that I had many brothers of former players play for us. The older brother had a good experience and the younger brother aspired to that same experience. Wins and losses might be printed in record books, but those don’t last. Players remember their teammates, as their success was intimately tied to the efforts of the guys next to them. That’s what lasts; that’s what resonates.

Q. You are leaving to spend more time with your family. Did coaching take its toll on your family life?

I couldn’t have coached for 12 years without my wife, Stacy. She was very, very supportive in raising three children — now 11, 9 and 7. But I hope the experience of coaching made me a better father and husband.

Why retire now? It’s just time to do it. As Barbara Talavan mentioned on the faculty retreat, part of working at SI is that you get into an activity and give it your all. But then it’s time to step aside and let someone else have a turn.

Igor Olshansky ’00 signs with the San Diego Chargers

The University of Oregon used Olshansky for a print ad when Igor played for the Ducks.

Former SI football coach Vince Tringali, long after leaving SI, continued to make a difference in the lives of football players. Thanks to his intervention, Igor Olshansky ’00 made history as the first Soviet-born person ever chosen by the NFL when the San Diego Chargers tapped him in 2004 in the second round of the draft.

Born in Dnepropetrovsk, Ukraine, Olshansky came to the U.S. when he was 7 in 1989, and enrolled at SI for his freshman year. On his 15th birthday, he stood 6-foot, 6-inches tall and weighed 240 pounds. At an SI football game, Tringali ran into him and asked him if he had a son playing football.

“When I found out he was a student, I asked him why he wasn’t out there playing football,” said Tringali. “He told me he was a basketball player, and I said whoever told you that lied to you.” The next year Olshansky joined the SI football team, and he struggled a bit learning the techniques and rules, but it didn’t take long for the colleges to come knocking. He signed with the University of Oregon, the same school Fouts had attended, and became a favorite of fans there who chanted “I-gor” at each game. After Olshansky left college, Tringali was at his family home, sitting right beside him during the draft, when Igor got the call from the Chargers who eventually made him a starter on the defensive line. “And God help any quarterback he hits,” added Tringali.

Olshansky played for the Dallas Cowboys from 2009 to 2010 before signing with the Miami Dolphins in 2011, for whom he played briefly before his retirement from the NFL.

Coach Steve Bluford ’84: 2004 to 2010

There’s a certain poetry to Steve Bluford ’84 getting the varsity football head coaching job at SI with the departure of former head coach Joe Vollert ’84.

Bluford and Vollert served as varsity co-captains in their senior year at SI and Bluford was Block Club vice president alongside Vollert, the group’s president.

And when Vollert received the head-coaching job, the first call he made was to his old friend. He convinced him to leave a career in physical therapy to teach and coach at his alma mater.

Bluford, the school’s first African-American varsity coach, also ran track at SI and played football at UC Santa Barbara where he received his Bachelor’s degree in psychology.

A longtime psychology teacher, PE teacher and current department chairman — as well as moderator of the Association of African American Students — Bluford also served as head JV coach from 1994 to 2001, leading his team to the WCAL championship in 1995. For the past two years, he has coached the varsity running backs. In addition, for several years he has run the popular and successful Bobcat summer football camp for grade-school children.

“I am confident that Steve’s enthusiasm, energy and commitment will ensure that our football program remains a source of pride for SI,” said Athletic Director Robert Vergara ’76.

Working at SI and coaching with Vollert, said Bluford, “has been an unbelievable experience. Joe and I have grown together, and he has provided great structure for leadership and guidance while letting me grow into my own.”

Bluford also praised and thanked his parents, his high school coach, Ray Calcagno ’64, and Dr. James Wood, his team doctor while he was at SI. “Dr. Wood took me under his wing and performed some of my surgeries. He treated me like one of his own and really looked out for me.”

Bluford’s goals, he noted, are to “learn more about the game and to create opportunities for kids who have potential. I also want to continue the great SI traditions that have made the football program a brotherhood, a family and a community with strong bonds. Football isn’t just about wins and losses; it’s about the students becoming excellent scholar athletes, role models and young men for others. I hope they learn the life skills of sacrifice, discipline, responsibility and hard work.”

Bluford added that his new role “is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and an incredible honor. I am blessed to join the ranks of Doc Erskine, Vince Tringali, Gil Haskell ’61, Ray Calcagno ’64 and Joe Vollert ’84. I have joined a family of incredible men — men who have served SI with character, integrity and pride. I plan to do the same.”

Bluford and his wife, Tanya, also celebrated the birth of their daughter, Kennedy, last Jan. 22.

“Being a dad is an awesome thing,” he noted. “It has given me a different perspective on life.”

 

Joe Vollert on Steve Bluford:

I’m very excited for our program, for our players and for Steve. I think it’s a challenge that he’s very ready for, and I think he’ll be very successful. He’s a good man, and it’s a good choice.

As a student at SI, Steve played varsity as a sophomore — he was fast and very talented. We played together our junior and senior years and eventually served as co-captains. In our senior year, we made the CCS playoffs for the first time in SI history with Steve serving as defensive back, running back and return man.

Our experience as teammates made us friends. I found him very spirited, much like he is now. He is enthusiastic and has a real spark to him.

Steve was the first guy I hired when I became head coach. He’s a great players’ coach who engenders tremendous loyalty from the kids he coaches. He cares deeply for them because he blends teaching, motivation and discipline better than any coach I’ve ever worked with. He demands the most out of the kids, and they really respond. I’ve seen over the years that he has a way of getting their hearts. They really love him. I remember a time he was getting the JV team ready for a game. His pre-game thing was to get them to sing a song. They sang, “We are the Wildcats, the mighty, mighty Wildcats,” based on the song from Remember the Titans. I think his teams will show tremendous passion, spirit and enthusiasm and will love playing.

In addition to his SI coaching, for the past 10 years he has run the Bobcat summer football camp. We’ve had some kids come up from that camp to play for us, and he has hired SI athletes to help coach. That experience has been great for our players, as it puts them on the other side of the table and gives them a different take on the game.

2006: First CCS Victory, WCAL Co-Champs

QB Mike McCaffery ’07 at SI's first CCS victory.

At the CCS championship game against Los Gatos Dec. 1, Coach Bluford paced the sidelines more ecstatic than worried.

After a key fumble, however, the guilty party walked with head hung to hear from his coach.

“I told him to relax and just have fun,” said Bluford.

“At that point, there’s no more coaching you can do. When players get uptight, they don’t perform as well as they can. I wanted him to relax, have fun and let the game play itself out.”

By the end, the game did just that, and the 2006 SI Varsity Football Team made history by beating Los Gatos 35–20 to take the sectional crown for the first time since the CCS inaugurated the regional competition in 1972.

That win, as glorious as it was, paled in comparison to the 26–20 victory over Bellarmine Nov. 11 to guarantee SI’s league co-champion status, which the Wildcats share with Serra. That victory ended a 29-year drought, as the last time the ’Cats won the WCAL title was in 1967 when Dan Fouts ’69 led the team as quarterback. (Fouts went on to a famed career playing with the San Diego Chargers, earning entry into the NFL Hall of Fame.)

For Head Coach Steve Bluford ’84, the championship trophies are ones that need to be shared with SI teams of the past.

“I am blessed with a great tradition of Wildcat football,” said Bluford. “My assistant Rob Unruh ’64 was a center for Coach Ray Calcagno ’64. They both played for Vince Tringali and Jim McDonald ’55. Joe Vollert ’84 and I both played for Ray. And our linebacker coach, Paul Tonelli ’76, played for Coach Gil Haskell ’61.

“I am the recipient of 40 years of coaching wisdom. These men are the ones who earned it along with all the Wildcats who wore our jerseys and who played AMDG but who were not able to win the league title. I’m happy my name is attached to this trophy, but it’s one for the program and for all these players and coaches.”

The ’Cats finished 10–2–1 overall and 5–1 in league thanks to several key players, including seniors Mike McCaffery at quarterback, offensive lineman Matt Summers-Gavin and linebacker and co-captain Tommy Kilgore.

McCaffery had a phenomenal year, throwing only one interception throughout league play. He earned WCAL Player of the Year honors, and High School Sports Focus named him CCS Offensive Player of the Year.

(McCaffery, a star pitcher for the Wildcats, signed with USC to play baseball in the southlands.)

“Chris is very competitive and thorough,” said Bluford. “He understands the game and how to manage the offense. He can throw anywhere with various degrees of touch, from a bullet to a finesse pass.”

Bluford also praised Summers-Gavin, one of the top-ranked high school players in the nation, who played in the Jan. 6 U.S. Army All American Bowl in San Antonio. “At 6-foot, 4-inches and 285 pounds, he has speed, power and quickness in changing direction. The head coaches from Cal and Notre Dame both paid a visit to SI to recruit him for their schools.”

Kilgore was key to SI’s defense. “He’s smart, tough and intense,” said Bluford, “and he loves the sport and his teammates. He’s a great, selfless leader.”

Bluford also praised Derek McDonald, Chris Bloom, Jake Lawson and Ryan Kirkpatrick, all of whom proved vital to both offense and defense.

Just as important to the team’s success were the individuals who didn’t get recognition in the press, from the scout teams to the student managers.

Bluford also praised assistant coaches John Regalia ’93, Paul Tonelli ’76, Josh Frechette, Rob Unruh ’64, Brian Kelly, Jeremy Dickmann and Gino Benedetti ’01. “We work well together because we are all passionate in our own way. I am lucky to coach alongside them.”

A week after capturing the CCS title, the ’Cats learned that CIF officials chose Palo Alto over SI to represent NorCal for the state championship.

“Playing for and winning the state title would have been the icing on the cake,” said Bluford. “But we ended post-season play on a high note. I was happy that we accomplished something that had never been done in SI history.”

 

Coach John Regalia ’93 & the 2011 CCS Victory

The championship team of 2011.

Coach John Regalia ’93.

Cats End Magical Playoff Run with CCS Title

By Chuck Nan ’79

In the place where splash hits are routine, the Wildcats made a big splash themselves as they ended a dramatic playoff run by hoisting the 2011 Central Coast Section Division III football trophy in early December. AT&T Park provided the stage as SI held off rival Sacred Heart Cathedral 21–14 in the championship finale in front of 12,000 fans, one of the biggest crowds of a high school football game in the history of the city.

Just after the Wildcats prevailed, head coach John Regalia ’93 praised everyone associated with the program. “It was simply the competitive spirit of the players and coaches that made it happen,” he said.

“We are blessed to have a coaching staff on all three levels committed to serving as excellent teachers, role models and mentors to our players and managers. They are all well organized and prepared and find creative ways to put our players in the best positions to be successful.”

The ’Cats remarkable journey took many turns throughout the season, one in which the team and coaching staff grew closer.

Despite a 3–6–1 overall record, SI made it to post-season play thanks to the strength of the ’Cats’ schedule, both league and non-league. In all, of the 11 opponents SI faced during the season, 10 were ranked and each earned post-season berths. Three of those teams – all from the WCAL – went on to win their sectional crowns in their respective divisions.

In the first-round of CCS play, SI traveled to Aptos to face the Santa Cruz league champion Mariners, a familiar playoff opponent. Though SI trailed 24–7 near the end of the third quarter, junior quarterback Jack Stinn, a steady performer all year, rallied his team to three fourth-quarter touchdowns and an amazing 35–31 win, one of the greatest comebacks in SI history.

The SI defense was daunting in the final four minutes. Sophomore Brian Wollitz, a JV call-up, made a key tackle for loss. Juniors Al Waters, Kevin Sullivan and Noah Bull then thwarted a fake punt to give the ’Cats excellent field position as they were poised for the winning drive. Bull, who led the team with a season-high 24 tackles in this contest, intercepted a pass to seal the game.

In the semifinals, the ’Cats faced league foe Valley Christian. This time, SI jumped to a lead, but couldn’t shake the Warriors, and the players found themselves in a battle to the end.

With time running out and trailing by 7, SI mounted an 80-yard scoring drive in little more than a minute to get within 1 point. The drive saw Stinn coolly complete five of seven passes plus a 9-yard quarterback keeper to prolong the drive just prior to the late TD.

A kick conversion would have tied the contest and led to an overtime duel.

What happened next was one of the memorable moments in Wildcat football history. Coach Regalia elected to attempt a 2-point conversion, a gutsy decision. Stinn connected with senior tight end Travis McDow, the player who had just scored the touchdown, to give the ’Cats a 43–42 lead. (The score alone showed fans that they had witnessed one of the greatest offensive games in CCS history.)

SI then held Valley Christian in the remaining seconds and prevailed. The win avenged an earlier regular season 24–21 loss to the Warriors. Stinn threw for a career-high 328 yards and tossed three touchdowns in the victory. Wollitz led the defense with seven tackles.

The win catapulted SI into the DIII championship against cross-town rival SHC. The showdown was initially scheduled for the 2,600-seat Terra Nova High School stadium in Pacifica, but thanks to some last-minute negotiations among SI, SHC, the CCS and the Giants, the game moved to AT&T Park.

SI Athletic Director John Mulkerrins ’89 noted that “the process to get to AT&T took some work, but it was an excellent example of four institutions working together for the good of high school football in San Francisco. We are very grateful to the Giants for their care and concern for our two schools.”

The venue alone made the night one for the history books, as the Dec. 3 match was the first time AT&T ever hosted a high school football game. Also, although the schools have been battling each other since 1893, they had never met for post-season play. Finally, the game marked the first time two San Francisco schools had ever played each other for a CCS football championship.

“The experience was awesome for both schools,” said Regalia. “This may have been a once-in-a-lifetime experience for coaches, players, fans and the community. It’s a special thing.”

The ’Cats entered the game that night as underdogs. In the first leg of the Bruce-Mahoney Trophy back in October, the Irish had won 38–14. But much had changed since October.

With the score tied at 14–14 in the third-quarter, SHC was in the midst of a successful drive when the ’Cats took advantage of an Irish miscue that would prove fatal.

SI junior linebacker Danny O’Malley was making his way into the SHC backfield on a blitz moments after a bad snap. With senior Joey Miller putting pressure on the quarterback, O’Malley recovered the fumble at midfield, scooped up the ball and raced 50 yards for the winning score.

The SI defense then put the clamps on the Irish offense, forcing SHC into four turnovers, three interceptions and one fumble, preventing any sustained offensive drives. The ’Cats, which allowed 170 SHC yards in the first half, held SHC to just 51 second-half yards and a total of nine first downs for the game.

Key to SI’s success was a change in its game plan. During the season, SI had run a balanced running and passing attack. On this night, it was power ball all the way. SI rushed the football for 55 of its 60 offensive plays.

“We knew we wanted to establish the run, and our preparation and players allowed us to do just that,” said Regalia. “We stressed fundamental football, especially on defense, and knew we had to be excellent at our pursuit and tackling fundamentals.”

Team captain and running back Dominic Truoccolo was the workhorse. The big senior ran for 195 yards on 36 attempts and scored one touchdown. Substituting for the injured Kerry Crowley ’12, Truoccolo amassed five touchdowns and 385 rushing yards on 72 carries in the three post-season victories. Truoccolo’s touchdown against SHC was his team-leading 12th for the season.

“Dominic is the ultimate team player,” said Regalia. “His work ethic is second to none. What he does spreads to others. We asked him to move from fullback to halfback, and he didn’t question that at all.”

“Nobody will ever forget the uniqueness of this particular contest with all of the historic firsts,” added Mulkerrins. “In the end, it came down to a well-played and well-coached football game with the ’Cats coming out on top.”

 

Blohm Brothers Connect 2006 and 2011 Championship Seasons

When junior offensive tackle Kevin Blohm helped his team win the CCS crown, he became the second member of his family to earn that distinction.

Kevin, who started in his position as left tackle for the entire season, followed in the footsteps of his brother, Chris ’07, who helped SI to the 2006 CCS crown, its first ever.

Chris went on to play football at Yale and saw action in 30 career games, starting in17 of them. He registered 27 receptions for 270 yards and two touchdowns for the Bulldogs. He signed with the San Francisco ’49ers, but an injury cut his professional career short.

Chris isn’t the only SI grad to try out for the NFL this season. Nebraska QB Zac Lee ’05 was with the Seahawks briefly in the preseason and defensive lineman Igor Olshansky ’00, who had played for the San Diego Chargers and the Dallas Cowboys, found a new home with Miami Dolphins before the start of the season.

2012: Third CCS Victory

The team celebrates after defeating Bellarmine for the CCS Open Division Title.

SI Football Developing Dynasty Under Coach Regalia and Staff: ’Cats Repeat as Section Champions, Earn Berth in Nor-Cal Bowl

(See more on Coach Regalia being named Prep2Prep Coach of the Year here, and NorCal Preps naming him D1 Coach of the year here.)

By Chuck Nan ’79

A year ago, SI’s varsity football team finished the 2011 season with CCS Division III championship, one that proved a triumphant crescendo following an energy-charged playoff run.

For an encore, the ’Cats went even farther – perhaps the farthest any SI team has ever gone – finishing first in the CCS Open Division by beating Bellarmine in overtime and taking second in Northern California, one game shy of a trip down south to the state championship.

Only the 1962 and 1963 football teams could claim for more success, with 19 straight wins and a national ranking (along with one other high school) as best in the country. (Those seasons preceded both CCS, which offered its first football championship in 1972, the NorCal Bowl, which began this year.)

In addition, the junior varsity team earned the WCAL title with a perfect 7–0 mark and an overall record of 9–1, promising great things for next year’s varsity.

After an opening game loss at Marin Catholic in September, SI’s varsity had a strong season, finishing third in the WCAL with a well rounded squad blessed with more athletic weapons than in years past.

Captain Comeback Jack Stinn ’13 returned as the quarterback and exemplified both SI’s success and growth over the years. His 24 touchdown passes and 2,400-plus yards passing solidified him as one of the best at his position in school history.

SI proved to be road warriors as they played just three games at J.B. Murphy Field all season. That never impacted their success as they systematically took to the road and handled opponents as they came.

Mid-season, the ’Cats had a bit of a dip as it faced tough league foes Bellarmine and Serra. The Bellarmine game was a hard-fought, seesaw battle that saw SI fall by a touchdown. The next week at Serra, SI ran into an offensive buzz saw and dropped another game.

After ending the season with a solid victory over Mitty, SI’s record stood at 5–2 in the WCAL and 7–3 overall, vaulting it to the highest rung of the CCS post-season ladder, the Open Division, for the first time ever.

For the 2011 playoffs, Stinn led his team twice to victory in gallant post-season fourth-quarter drives. He did the same this year in the semifinals against Mitty, beating the Monarchs 25–22. This came on the heels of a dominant quarterfinal win at Palma (Salinas), 49–14.

In the Nov. 30 CCS championship game at San Jose City College – Bellarmine’s home turf – SI came back from a slow start and bevy of penalties to tie the game in the middle of the fourth quarter 7–7. SI’s most pivotal play of the season may have been their resilient and unyielding goal-line stand on a fourth-down play at the 1-yard line. With just over one minute remaining, they repelled the Bells’ threat and sent the game into overtime.

After the Bells tallied a field goal, SI took possession, and on their first play of overtime, Elijah Dale took a handoff, swept 10 yards left and powered for a touchdown. The 13–10 upset victory resulted in elation on and off the field and catapulted SI into the CIF Division I Nor-Cal Regional Bowl.

 “We were able to execute at the right time,” said Coach John Regalia ’93. “Our second-half focus was to stay in the game and successfully take advantage of the few opportunities we would get and to limit Bellarmine’s ability to make big plays. The team had confidence in that approach.”

On Dec. 7, SI faced Granite Bay at Sacramento State University for the right to travel to Carson the following weekend to play for a state title. Despite a valiant effort by the team, the Grizzlies proved too formidable and thumped the ’Cats 45–17. Stinn surpassed 5,000 career passing yards in the loss.

Even with that defeat, SI won 11 of its last 14 away games in the past two seasons thanks to the masterful game planning of Regalia, who was named WCAL Coach of the Year by prep2prep.com. He proved to other coaches around the league that SI had not only turned the corner, but was now a resident on the block.Each week, Regalia and his staff shifted the focus of the offense among a myriad of capable athletes at key positions to perplex and slow opposing coaches and their defensive schemes. The staff was able to capitalize on its running or passing games or blend the two.

“I cannot be more proud of our coaching staff, at all levels,” said Regalia. “The amount of time and commitment by them, dating as far back as January, is extraordinary. Their level of preparation and mentoring these young men is huge.”

Receiver Andrew Vollert had a monster season, leading the league in every meaningful statistical category. The 6-foot, 5-inch senior hauled in 62 receptions for 1,059 yards and 15 touchdowns.

Senior tri-captains Noah Bull and Albert Waters III (along with Stinn) were experienced leaders in their third-year with the varsity. Bull once again was the cornerstone on defense, leading the league in tackles. Waters snagged six interceptions and scored touchdowns in every possible fashion on the gridiron.

Bull was selected the CCS Defensive Player of the Year by Cal-Hi Sports Bay Area, and Dan Harris, an executive producer with Cal-Hi Sports, praised Bull for his “extraordinary contributions on the field.”

Juniors Dale and Joe Lang showed they are building blocks for next year’s team with their consistent play. Dale amassed more than 1,500 yards rushing along with 17 touchdowns. His season included two games where he rushed 225 yards or more. In one contest, he scored a remarkable five touchdowns. Lang emerged as a reliable receiver and made his biggest contributions in the post-season run. In those four games, he collected 17 receptions for 360 yards and two scores.

“Our program’s structure has been in place for a while,” said Regalia. “We strive for high levels of leadership, ownership and competition from all our players. This was a mature group who believed in their commitment to the program and to each other.”

Regalia praised the players for their continued focus on preparation, facing opponents in the tough WCAL each week. “They found ways to challenge each other while still challenging themselves. This created the competitive spirit that allowed us to stay on track. After a couple of losses, we were able to work through the adversity.”

 

2013: SI takes 2nd in CCS

2013 Wildcats Finish Gridiron Season Strong: Championship Run Falls Short in Finale

By Chuck Nan ’79

On a cold and rainy Dec. 6 night, it looked as if fate would shine upon the Wildcats once again as they mounted a gallant fourth-quarter comeback against Aptos in the Central Coast Section DIII title game. However, as time expired on the clock, thoughts of a third consecutive section crown were washed away.

In his three full seasons as head varsity football coach, Head Coach John Regalia ’93 and his clubs have had great rides.

Regalia’s staff has developed a recipe for success and demonstrated mastery of the game, thanks to their knack for developing a game plan tailored specifically to attack each opponent and their ability to orchestrate the team to reach a post-season crescendo.

Despite criticism from pundits who contended that a team with a 2–8 regular season record should not qualify for the playoffs, the Wildcats focused on their goal of winning another CCS championship. At first glance, the record did seem deficient, but those in doubt obviously didn’t know about the level of play and reputation of the ever-rugged West Catholic Athletic League.

Beginning with their first game in early-September, SI faced strong opposition weekly, first in the form of three non-league opponents, two of whom finished with perfect 10-0 regular season marks.

SI’s two victories came at the expense of its WCAL brethren and traditional City foes. In a rare on-campus night game, the ’Cats blasted Archbishop Riordan 49–7 as they held the Crusaders scoreless until the final play. A few weeks later, the first leg of the Bruce-Mahoney was contested at Kezar Stadium as SI faced Sacred Heart Cathedral. The Irish proved no match for their 120-year-old rival as they succumbed 49–14.

Play in the CCS Division III tournament began with SI in a usual place: on the road. They traveled to Gilroy to face Christopher High School and came away with a resounding 24–0 triumph.

Next the ’Cats were off to the Peninsula to face undefeated Burlingame (11–0) in the semifinals. The Panthers’ record didn’t dissuade SI, who sprinted to an early 21–0 lead. Brian Wollitz ’14, injured much of the season, was one of the heroes as he bounced-back to score three touchdowns. Quarterback Ryan Hagfeldt ’15 also led the charge, throwing for four scores in the impressive 41–21 win.

The conquest placed SI in its third-consecutive CCS football championship game, this time against a familiar opponent: Aptos. SI had defeated the Mariners all three times they had faced-off in the CCS football playoffs over the previous decade.

After taking an early lead, the Wildcats found Aptos a formidable foe and were unable to withstand some untimely miscues. Behind 41–21 with only minutes to play, SI mounted a magnificent comeback that placed them in position to win the contest with less than a minute to go. However, the effort was thwarted by a final interception, and the Mariners prevailed, 41–35. Elijah Dale ’14 starred as he rushed for 185 yards and scored four touchdowns.

This year, many of the leaders from the class of 2013 who had helped SI win back-to-back CCS crowns had moved on to college. However, two seniors who remained provided the spark for this year’s heavily junior-laden squad.

Dale culminated his career by rushing his way into the school record book as the school’s all-time leading rusher, with more than 2,800 yards, and with a record 31 touchdowns over his two varsity seasons. Dale also became just the second player in school history to gain more than 1,000 yards rushing in consecutive seasons.

Joe Lang ’14, who finished the 2012 post-season on a tear, provided fans with thrills every game as he played a myriad of positions all over the field. The all-purpose star placed himself in the California state record book with five punt-return touchdowns in the span of seven games. During that time, he also returned three interceptions for scores. In the Riordan game, Lang (also an All-American lacrosse player) had the distinction of scoring on offense, defense and special teams, a true rarity.

The offensive line was young, but solidified by returning senior starters Connor Hagan and Nik Bell. Seniors Anthony Rodriguez and Dermott Heavey earned their way into the starting lineup and provided consistency to the offensive front. Fullbacks Stephen Ostrowski and Wollitz proved their toughness as they tirelessly blocked for Dale.

Next season looks promising, as the defense will boast at least six returning starters, including linebackers Rob Meagher and Peter Alimam, who were solid against the run. Julian Gunter also saw valuable time as a linebacker. Nick Stinn found a home at defensive back, while Dominic Burke at safety proved to be one of the hardest hitters and most reliable defenders in the league. Juniors Dominic Orsi, Frank Jefferson IV and Ryan Dutton, along with senior Brent Arimoto, led the defensive front as they combined to sack opposing quarterbacks eight times.

Offensive returnees include Hagfeldt, who looked increasingly comfortable and confident as the season progressed and should take the helm again. Four of his favorite downfield targets, Luke Lotti, Dylan Elder, Stinn and Chad Johnstone, return to catch passes.

On special teams, long-snapper Finn Barry, who also played fullback and safety, returns along with one of the best kickers in the Bay Area, the ever-accurate Andrew Ferrero, who proved to be an invaluable weapon as he connected for nine field goals and 39 PATs for the season.

2014: SI's football program goes high tech with sensors in helmets

Athletic Director John Mulkerrins ’89 holds the Rydell sensor used to help the team trainers monitor the players.

The first practice of the SI varsity football team drew the attention of national press not because of its recent success but as a result of of the school’s cutting-edge commitment to safety on the field.

The school purchased 180 InSite Impact Response System units from Riddell, the makers of the Speed helmets worn by the athletes, to measure impact and alert trainers, coaches, athletes and parents to any risk of concussion or head injury.

Though other Bay Area high schools have purchased a handful of these sensor units for some members of their first string varsity athletes, SI is by far the largest user of this new device in Northern California and has outfitted each member of the freshman, JV and varsity squads with sensor.

SI’s commitment to safety drew the attention of CNBC, which brought a film crew to the school Aug. 16 for the first team practice. The show aired four days later on Street Signs, in a segment dedicated to wearable high-tech.

The helmets and five-point sensors can’t prevent concussions, but by measuring impact, they alert trainers to the possibility of injury. “The new technology fits into what we value in our program,” said head coach John Regalia ’93. “We teach safe ways to allow our athletes to compete at the highest level, and these sensors allow our staff to evaluate players and their status in what is a physical game. We are excited to continue to take steps to be safe in a highly competitive program while also providing the very best experience for our athletes and families.”

InSite was developed based on Riddell’s Head Impact Telemetry System and Sideline Response System, a technology that has analyzed more than 2 million impacts since 2003. This new technology fits into the liner of a Riddell helmet and sends signals wirelessly to handheld devices on the field, where trainers can see if athletes have suffered significant head impacts during games or practices.

Thanks to advances in design and less expensive components, Riddell was able to develop a much less expensive version of the sensor than the ones used years ago by college athletes, and the company made them available this season for the first time to high school programs.

In the past, SI trainers Marla Bottner and Rob Assadurian and the coaches depended on students to report symptoms they were experiencing that might be the result of concussions. Some students over the years were reluctant to report symptoms, especially before big games, or didn’t think the symptoms warranted reporting.

“With the new InSite sensors, we now have metrics that amount to eyes inside the helmet,” said Athletic Director John Mulkerrins ’89. “Those sensors measure a significant single impact or multiple impacts during a game or practice.”

Both Bottner and Mulkerrins stressed that the sensors are not a substitute for doctors and trainers. “We will still employ our concussion assessment protocol,” said Mulkerrins.

Erin Griffin, a senior communications manager with Riddell, praised SI, noting that “SI has become a leader among the nation’s high schools first by using the Speed helmet and then by taking things a step further with a significant investment into the InSite sensors. It speaks volumes about how much SI values protecting its players.

As part of the school’s commitment to safety, SI will host several experts for a brain seminar on Sept. 17 at 7 p.m. in the Carlin Commons, open to all parents and students. Speakers will include both Darren Cde Baca ’78 and his son, Brett ’10, who suffered severe concussions while playing football at Trinity College. Both men have appeared on the Today Show to speak about the dangers of concussions, and they have also started the One Hit Away Foundation to showcase treatment options.

The Greats: Wildcats in the San Francisco Prep Hall of Fame

 

Above: Bob Giorgetti ’68, who went on to play at USC, was inducted into the SF Prep Hall of Fame in 2016.

San Francisco Prep Hall of Fame inductees over the years have included many gridiron stars; they are listed, below, in boldface.

  • Gary Attell ’59 (baseball)
  • John “Buddy” Baccitich ’63 (football)
  • Richard Bassi ’59 (swimming)
  • Donald Benedetti ’50 (basketball)
  • James Brovelli ’60 (basketball)
  • Ray Calcagno ’54 (football)
  • Ron Calcagno ’60 (football, basketball & baseball)
  • Vincent Casey ’28 (football)
  • Harvey Christensen ’43 (baseball)
  • Chris Delaney (baseball @ Washington HS, SI Coach)
  • John Donohue ’69 (coaching baseball @ Lowell)
  • Gil Dowd ’57 (football)
  • Robert Drucker ’58 (basketball, coaching)
  • John Duggan ’92 (basketball)
  • Roger Ferrari ’55 (baseball)
  • Ed Forrest ’39 (football)
  • Paul Fortier ’82 (basketball)
  • Robert "Bobby" Giorgetti ’68 (foorball)
  • Jack Grealish ’44 (baseball)
  • Joseph Gualco ’63 (baseball)
  • James Kearney ’48 (football, track)
  • James Keating (SI baseball coach)
  • Thomas Kennedy ’63 (football)
  • Fred LaCour ’56 (basketball)
  • Leo La Rocca ’53 (basketball, baseball, SI AD)
  • Albert “Cappy” Lavin ’48 (basketball)
  • Zac Lee ’05 (football)
  • Ray Maloney ’27 (basketball)
  • Bernard “Jack” McKay ’53 (football)
  • Gary Musante ’61 (football, baseball)
  • Kevin O’Shea ’43 (basketball)
  • Ray Paxton ’54 (basketball & baseball)
  • Robert Portman ’65 (basketball)
  • Noel Robinson ’54 (football)
  • Alex Schwartz (SI basketball & football coach)
  • Jack Scramaglia ’55 (baseball)
  • Charles Silvera ’42 (baseball)
  • Bernard Simpson ’54 (basketball, baseball)
  • Rudy Zannini ’51 (basketball)
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