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Spring Football: St. Francis has its share of experience

June 03, 2010|By Grant Gordon

Upon first glance and first thought, one would likely come to think that the St. Francis High football team is in a period of rebuilding, looking to replace a great deal of standout seniors, the most notable being UCLA-bound Dietrich Riley, who was an unprecedented three-time All-Area Football Player of the Year.

But a closer look reveals that these Golden Knights, in their spring form, are an experienced group that their coach, Jim Bonds, believes might even be further ahead at this point of the year.

"The big thing is for [players] to experience the success and the big wins, and the success we had last year — I think they feed off that more than anything," said Bonds of his returners, who include five players who were just sophomores a season ago. "I feel like this group is the type of group where they have that ability to come in and not only repeat, but go farther than last year."

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After a 9-3 season in which the Golden Knights advanced to the CIF Southern Section Western Division quarterfinals, there are high hopes, but, by all accounts, the team's experience and preparation exceed that of last year's squad at this point of the year.

"We've got a lot of guys coming back," said offensive tackle Patrick Carroll, who will return for his third year starting on the offensive line as a two-time All-Area and All-Mission League honoree. "I feel we're gonna be more experienced than we were last year."

And day-by-day improvement seems to be the current mantra for the newest batch of Golden Knights.

"Right now, it's all about getting better every day and improving," said Michael Melnick, a running back and linebacker who returns after an All-Area junior campaign. "Once we get the pads on, we'll see who can hit and who can really play. Until then, it's just about getting better every day."

Spring practice began May 18 for the Golden Knights, but in Bonds' mind it was simply a technicality. With the absence of the CIF's past "no-association" rule, regulations on the amount of time during the off-season in which football practices and meetings can occur are few and far between.

Thus, St. Francis started morning sessions back in January and Bonds believes it's accelerated the learning curve.

"I think we're ahead of where we were last year," Bonds said. "We don't start at square one; we're just trying to build on what we did in those mornings in the off-season.

"Really, our spring, our off-season, started in January. That's when we started identifying our leaders."

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