Article written by By Gerry Gittelson, Special to the Daily News
The school has gone 49 years since winning a Southern Section football championship, but St. Francis has remained competitive year in and year out, and this season the Golden Knights are doing more than merely plugging away.
With a high-powered offense that averages 444 yards and 44.5 points per game, St. Francis (8-0) is off to its best start since 1966 heading into a Mission League showdown at 7 p.m. Friday at Serra (8-0), ranked No. 4 in the state by Cal-Hi Sports and No. 7 in the nation by USA Today.
St. Francis has a challenging academic curriculum and rigorous entrance requirements that force the Golden Knights to turn away a lot of talented prospective student athletes that other nearby private schools readily accept. An occasional all-state type like Dietrich Riley (ex-UCLA) has shown up through the years, but mostly St. Francis succeeds on home-grown talent.
As a result, the trophy case is not overflowing with championship hardware, and the school usually is not mentioned in the same breath with other elite private-school programs like Oaks Christian, Alemany and Chaminade.
Instead, the campus has a small-town feel with a hearty supply of pride and school spirit. Nearly every graduate goes on to attend a four-year university, maybe not to play major-college football but perhaps with an extra dose of loyalty and commitment — qualities missing at some of the other highly competitive programs.
The Golden Knights are not a football power in the traditional sense. Nevertheless, they’ve made the playoffs 12 times in 13 years since former UCLA quarterback Jim Bonds took over as head coach.
St. Francis, ranked No. 3 in the Western Division, figures to be in for a big challenge Friday at defending champion Serra, which already has defeated Notre Dame, Chaminade and Harvard-Westlake.
“We know we’re in store for a tough games with Serra, so we’re just taking things one step at a time and preparing to play hard,” St. Francis running back Joe Mudie said. “We’re 8-0 and we feel great. Our whole team has played well, and we just have good team effort.
“Everyone on the team believes in each other, and everything has been clicking on offense and defense and special teams.”
Being an underdog, not just tonight but in general, serves as motivation.
“It motivates us more and makes us prepare even harder,” Mudie said. “We’re not focused on making a name for ourselves, just on playing hard. I mean, publicity is good, but it’s not the most important thing.”
Mudie is coming off a career night, rushing for 225 yards and two touchdowns Friday in a 44-14 victory over Harvard-Westlake. He has rushed for 987 yards — 412 over the past two games — and scored 13 touchdowns in addition to 25 receptions and 29.3-yard average on kick returns.
Mudie is among a group of key seniors including quarterback Ty Gangi, linebackers Kevin Maloof and Michael Weber and defensive lineman Ricky Urzua.
Gangi, a first-year starter, has passed for 1,543 yards and 18 touchdowns, and he also has scored five touchdowns. He has taken advantage after waiting patiently for a opportunity, and the 6-foot-3, 200-pounder has passed for at least one touchdown in every game.
“I learned a lot during the spring and summer, and I’ve just practiced hard,” Gangi said.
Having Bonds as the head coach has helped Gangi a lot. In high school, Bonds led Hart to a Northwestern Conference championship in 1986. His coaching mentor is Bill Redell, who plucked Bonds, then 23, as an assistant at St. Francis before Bonds eventually took the head job at Alemany for three years. When Redell moved to Oaks Christian, Bonds returned to St. Francis.
The coach still enjoys a tradition of playing long toss with his quarterbacks every day and Gangi has a good grasp of team concepts, and that’s something the coach has instilled.
“I’ve got a couple of really good receivers with John Carroll and Dylan Crawford,” Gangi said. “John is a big target, 6-4, 220 pounds, and he’s coming off a big game last week against Harvard-Westlake. Once I get him the ball, he can really run with it, too. Dylan, he’s only a sophomore, but he’s been really great because he’s so fluid, and he’s great at adjusting to the ball.”
Gangi operates behind an offensive line featuring seniors Trevor Provencio (6-2, 290), Joe Loubier (6-5, 260) and Austin Finton (6-1, 240). Provencio is a co-captain along with Mudie and Maloof.
Maloof is the cousin of world-renowned businessman Joe Maloof, the ex-owner of the NBA’s Sacramento Kings and present owner of Palms Casino in Las Vegas.
Maloof is a part of a hard-hitting defense that has allowed an average of just 15 points and forced 15 turnovers.
“We’re a really stout defense. I’m happy but there’s always room for improvement,” Maloof said. “We just keep practicing hard every week, and I think we’ve got a chance against Serra. We plan on taking it to ‘em.”
Bonds is the architect of St. Francis’ success. When he first left Alemany to take the job, he said it was an easy decision to make because St. Francis just felt like home.
“I enjoyed my time at Alemany, which was my first head-coaching job, but I had made some great relationships at St. Francis with Bill Redell and the administration, and when Bill left, he kind of gave me a head’s up and brought me in,” Bonds said. “It’s was just a place where I wanted to put my feet on the ground and wanted to be for a long time.”
Bonds is 102-57 at St. Francis. He has a group of seasoned assistants, including offensive coordinator Joe Monarrez, who has been at St. Francis for 17 years, and defensive coordinator Mark Gibbons, who has been there 21 years.
If St. Francis can forge an upset Friday, it would be perhaps the biggest regular-season victory in Bonds’ career. Of course, no one expects it to happen, but Bonds and the Golden Knights believe in each other, and for him that’s the most important thing.
“I like St. Francis because we have such good kids,” Bonds said. “They’re very respectful young men, they’re academically motivated, and I have a great staff. I’m having a great time here.”
During the 1950s and 1960s, competing against powerhouse in the Catholic Conference, Parochial League and Santa Fe League, St. Francis athletics teams were known simply as “The Knights.” It was before a particularly key game against powerful Mater Dei that the GOLDEN KNIGHTS were born.
Legendary head coach Jack Friedman, to honor the most dedicated of the Knights and to inspire the team to victory over Mater Dei, established the GOLDEN KNIGHTS to form a nucleus of team leaders, dedicated absolutely and totally to football excellence with each member singled out by the Varsity coaching staff for his desire, hustle, achievement and dedication to St. Francis athletics.
GOLDEN KNIGHTS are chosen to lead the team as much in practice sessions as in games, and as much on campus as on the field. Under the direction of their head coach, they accept responsibility for administering team rules, for organizing drills and boosting team morale. Through their active participation in shaping the goals and values of their teammates, the GOLDEN KNIGHTS have not only been responsible for developing character in others, but for developing their own character as well.
Today, these descendants of the original GOLDEN KNIGHTS are, perhaps more than any other athlete, visible representations of the ideals, values and mission of St. Francis High School, mirroring the Code of the GOLDEN KNIGHT:
“Victorious in competition, steadfast in his ideals, loyal to his Alma Mater and reverent unto God.”
Dear Family and Friends of St. Francis,
I am very happy to extend my greetings to all returning parents – and to those parents who are joining the St. Francis family this school year! Let me say how blessed we are to have you and your sons on campus. The beginning of a school year is always exciting – it is a time filled with renewed energy and enthusiasm. At St. Francis, it is also a time to commit ourselves to our mission to enrich the mind and heart. This mission is twofold – we must commit on a personal level to nurture this and we must also actively seek ways to enrich the mind and heart of our brothers and sisters in Christ. In this way, we model our lives after Christ and after Francis.
As you know, St. Francis High School is unique because of our dedication and commitment to spirituality, Franciscan virtues, and our family spirit. This first quarter, our Franciscan virtue is hospitality. What an ideal opportunity to say to all of you, “Welcome! You are home at St. Francis. We will do everything we can to make this school year a joyful and successful one.”
I hope you and your family had an enjoyable summer and that you had many occasions to spend time with one another. Although most of our faculty was in recess during the summer, we continued our educational work with summer school and with athletics. We have also been busy preparing for the start of the new school year which will include the opening of our new classroom wing and initial launch of our technology initiative. These three new classrooms with the latest technology will be available later this first quarter. I believe you will be very pleased, as I am, with the expansion of our classroom facilities and the steps we are taking to integrate technology into our curriculum.
I look forward to seeing you at the various events on campus throughout the year. Thank you once again for allowing us to help in the education of your sons. We appreciate and value your trust. Once again, welcome! And, GO KNIGHTS!
May the Lord give you His peace!
Fr. Tony Marti, OFM Cap.
Enjoy the latest news and announcements from St. Francis High School!
For the past two years, St. Francis has been exploring the next step in technology and education. Extensive research was conducted, interviews with technology integration specialists were held, multiple school site visits were made, and the Board of Directors created a Technology Subcommittee in order to guide the initiative. These efforts were critical in positioning St. Francis to move seamlessly toward a more inquiry/project-based learning environment to enrich the students and to prepare them more effectively for the future. Ms. Sunita Saxena, the St. Francis Technology Coordinator, stresses that, “The goal of incorporating technology into our classroom is not to be fashionable, but to make learning more meaningful for the students. It requires that we find different ways to deliver instruction to meet the needs of the 21st Century learners.”
One of the first components of this plan involved the creation of a Model 21st Century classroom, which included an interactive white board, class set of iPads, as well as a new computer projection and sound system. Freshman Religion classes, under the direction of Mr. Mark Fredette and Mr. Joe Kim, were the first to explore and benefit from these new instruction tools. In just a few months, Mr. Fredette reports, “The kids love using the Extron board – we were able to incorporate it in a timed map competition. This competition when compared to previous years’ results shortened the learning curve to at least one third. This was one example of a learning activity that used to take students 45 minutes and produced mixed results. With the new technology, virtually the whole class learned and mastered the concepts in 15 minutes”. Freshman Cameron Wheeler observes, “When using the iPad to study for a test about the Middle Eastern countries and their geographic locations, we used a Middle East Map quiz game online to study. Then each side of the classroom competed to see who would finish the game first. From then on the map was practically burned into my memory”. This Model Classroom will provide the blueprint for the most visible part of the St. Francis technology plan. The current construction of a new classroom wing that will house three 21st Century classrooms is scheduled to open in the fall of 2013. Ultimately, all of our classrooms will be retrofitted with these 21st Century learning tools.
In May, faculty members were issued iPads and in September we will begin 18 months of ongoing and extensive professional development that will facilitate the transition to an inquiry/project-based learning environment. All of this will prepare our teaching community for the rollout of our 1:1 program in which every student will use iPads on campus to access textbooks on-line, and for classroom activities and projects. This program will begin in the fall of 2014 with the classes of 2017 and 2018, and will be followed in the fall of 2015 with the classes of 2016 and 2019.
While this is a major step for St. Francis High School, and most certainly will meet with twists and turns along the way, we are confident that our due diligence over the past two years will result in success. Look for more detailed information as this initiative moves forward.
Dear Friends of St. Francis,
As I write this, our campus is still and quiet awaiting the start of summer session next week – so very different from the typical school day but it reminds me of the significance of summer.
Summer should be a relaxing and fun-filled time because students and families need a break. There ought to be moments to pause, to set aside the hectic pace that accompanies each school year so that we can recharge and reconnect with loved ones. I have found that it is the relationships in our lives that are most important and it is these relationships that will ultimately enrich us. So I encourage you to take time, and I mean consciously create precious time, to connect with your God and tend to your spirituality. Take those opportunities to actively engage with your children, your parents, and your friends. Be joyful! The days are longer, the sun shines brightly here in Southern California, and it gives us all new-found energy. Use this energy! Put the Franciscan virtues you learned from your time at St. Francis High School into action – be humble, foster brotherhood, serve others, and always give thanks. We all need to remind ourselves that we are continuously called to nurture our relationship with God and with one another – what better time than summer?
The summer solstice marks the longest period of daylight in a given year. There are holidays, festivals and rituals that are focused around this solstice. I pray that you and your loved ones will enjoy a summer that captures the spirit of the summer solstice – time for joyous and festive gatherings as well as time for quiet prayer and reflection. I will continue to remember you, dear friends of St. Francis, in my prayers and daily Mass throughout the summer. May our Lord bless you and watch over you as you enjoy the summer, travel safely and take time to rest and renew.
Yours in Jesus and Francis,
Fr. Tony Marti, OFM Cap.
Enjoy the latest news and announcements from St. Francis High School!
I have a confession to make that will not shock any of you-I am old. Recently, I’ve developed some strategies to deal with my advancing age like employing mnemonic devices to recall important things. For example, the four Franciscan virtues we emphasized this year were acceptance, service, generosity, and peacemaking. So to remember them, I created the acronym A GPS.
That works for me because my wife is directionally challenged. I don’t mean that she has not provided me with direction during our marriage, but rather that she gets lost easily. So a few years ago, I bought her a Global Positioning Satellite (and yes, it was a Tom Tom). There are some things I don’t appreciate about this device. I would prefer a celebrity voice to a computerized one. I wish they would delay the start of giving directions-I know how to leave my own neighborhood. And I want the voice that says “recalculating,” not to speak in such a condescending manner.
At that time, I was concerned about my wife reaching her destination safely, but was unaware of some of the horror stories about people who blindly followed their GPS: the elderly couple so intent on listening, they plowed into the side of a church; another driver ignored traffic signs and ended up in a lake.
Fr. Chris, or maybe an AP Physics student can explain exactly how A GPS works. I know that smart phones now perform the same function, but I never figured out my eight track. Admittedly, the technology is beyond me. But, in my simple world view, A GPS provides comfort for me and direction for my wife.
So here you are, the incredibly accomplished class of 2013. Each of you has your next destination plotted. Your college admissions range from schools on the east to west coast and all points in between. We have no doubt that you will successfully navigate your way there. Statistics indicate about 50% of students change their majors between their first and last classes and approximately 33% of students transfer during their collegiate careers. Whatever your destination appears to be now, you need to be flexible enough to alter your course if necessary. And there will be numerous diversions and obstacles that await you along your path.
Embracing A GPS (acceptance, generosity, peacemaking, and service) will help you to navigate successfully. Your families and our school community hope it provides direction for you and comfort for us.
During his lifetime, St. Francis traveled extensively throughout Italy and Spain, but also into the Holy Land. The gps had not been invented yet, but he had the advantage of being guided by acceptance, generosity, peacemaking, and service (A GPS).
Today, consider your St. Francis diploma A GPS. By sharing the Franciscan virtues you have learned, by living with integrity and humility, and by imitating the life of Francis, you can activate it. Imagine it with the voice of Mr. Trujillo, Mr. Brang, or Fr. Tony; follow it anyway.
A GPS also has a “take me home” command. We hope you use this feature to remain connected with your alma mater and your brothers. Heed any other warning signs in your path, but you can impact and contribute to society by deliberately being guided by A GPS (acceptance, generosity, peacemaking, and service).
Enjoy the latest news and announcements from St. Francis High School!