First published in the Aug. 11 print issue of the Outlook Valley Sun.
St. Francis High School’s football team was just one victory away from a CIF Southern Section Division IV title, but the Golden Knights are back again this year looking to take the new-and-improved Angelus League by storm.
“We ran into a buzzsaw that last game. Long Beach Poly’s never been in Division IV in their lives,” St. Francis head coach Dean Herrington said of the championship-game loss to the Jackrabbits. “We’re ready to roll. Hopefully we compete for a league championship, get to the playoffs and make a run again. But we’re excited about this team.”
Despite graduating nearly 20 seniors from last year’s team, the Golden Knights program is reloaded with a notable addition from Texas, senior Devyn Turner. He is expected to fill the void of Max Garrison, a SFHS graduate who now plays Division I football at San Diego State University. Turner had a terrific junior campaign at Allen High in Texas last year, posting 122 carries for 1,046 yards (87.6 yards per game) while adding 11 receptions for 153 yards. He finished a yard shy of 1,200 total yards in 12 games while adding 19 touchdowns, 18 of which came from rushing.
“We got a transfer from Texas and he’s got scholarship offers from Washington State and UNLV,” Herrington said. “He rushed for over 1,000 yards last year at 8.6 yards a carry at the highest Texas level of football. He’s a special, special player so we’re lucky that he and his dad moved out here and picked St. Francis.”
Quarterback Jack Jacobs is returning after an outstanding junior campaign. The standout senior was excellent in the pocket, recording a 65.2 completion percentage (167-for-256) with 1,927 passing yards and 10 touchdowns. He was also great on his feet, rushing for 13 additional touchdowns on 152 carries and 533 yards.
“This year we have an experienced receiving corps with the guys that have joined us,” Herrington said. “Jack has some big-time weapons this year to get the ball to and he looks great. I don’t understand why he doesn’t have multiple Pac-12 offers right now; he’s playing that well. He’s 6-foot-6 and gained about 20 pounds since last season, and he’s going to have an unbelievable season this year.”
Junior Preston Jernegan is looking to be an anchor on defense again after leading the team with 81 tackles in his sophomore season. He will need to step up as a defensive leader after SFHS lost 16 players from its defensive line via graduation last academic year.
“Preston was forced last year, because we were really thin, to play receiver for us too, as well as middle linebacker. This year he is going to focus mostly at middle linebacker now that we have our receivers but when we need a tight end, he’ll be there also,” Herrington said.
The Angelus League will feature six teams this season instead of four from years past, Herrington noting that there will be no easy games on the schedule this season. Crespi High of Encino, St. Paul High of Santa Fe Springs and rival Loyola High of Los Angeles still compete with the Golden Knights in the league, which is added Paraclete High of Lancaster and Cathedral High of Los Angeles.
“It’s a tough league this year. We need guys to stay healthy and week in, week out, we’re going to play against a good team,” Herrington said. “We had a dogfight against St. Paul last year. We played Crespi and finally pulled away in the fourth quarter, but they gave us all we could handle. And we lost a tough one to Loyola, so if you’re not ready to play, you’ll get beat.”
SFHS will officially kick off the regular season by traveling to West Ranch for a nonleague game on Friday, Aug. 19, at 7 p.m. Including the season-opener, St. Francis has three consecutive road matchups scheduled before finally heading home to play St. Pius X-St. Matthias Academy of Downey in a nonleague game on Friday, Sept. 9, at 7 p.m.