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High school football 2023 preview: PAL Bay Division

High school football 2023 preview: PAL Bay Division

PENINSULA ATHLETIC LEAGUE BAY DIVISION

(Predicted order of finish)

No. 1 LOS GATOS

Coach: Mark Krail

Record in 2022: 8-3

What to expect: It’s a new league for Los Gatos this season as the Wildcats and longtime league mates Wilcox and Mountain View merge with Menlo-Atherton, Sacred Heart Prep and Burlingame to form a more competitive division. But just like old times, Los Gatos is the favorite to finish on top. Coach Mark Krail, now in his 11th season leading the storied program and 26th overall, has another talented roster, led by standout WR/DB Jaylen Thomas. The De Anza Division MVP last season helped the Wildcats capture the league title and receive a home game in the CCS Division I playoffs. “Very versatile player,” Krail said. “Rarely comes off the field.” Ryan Vernale is also back to lead the way in the trenches. The OL/DL, now a senior, was the De Anza lineman of the year in 2022. Another senior, LB/FB Spencer Burg, is a three-year starter on defense who received all-league honors last year. Senior DB/WR Scott Garwood brings leadership and versatility to the team, and junior LB/RB Henry Masters is a “very savvy” player, Krail noted. The non-league schedule includes two East Bay schools, at Liberty on Sept. 1 and at home against Pittsburg on Sept. 29.

Season opener: Aug. 24 vs. Soquel, 7 p.m.

No. 2 WILCOX

Coach: Paul Rosa

Record in 2022: 10-2

What to expect: The Chargers are coming off another successful season under longtime coach Paul Rosa, whose team should challenge Los Gatos once again for first place. According to Rosa, depth is one of the team’s strengths, which is never a bad thing in a contact sport. “We return our whole linebacking crew, which had a good year last year,” Rosa added. Jeramiah Lewis is one of those LBs. The three-year starter was the defensive player of the year in the De Anza last season. Senior OL Justin Hylkema, who measures a whopping 6-8 and 315 pounds, will be impossible to miss in the trenches. The Arizona commit lines up at left tackle and this season will also play some DL. The Chargers also return senior DE/OL Romeo Castillo and talented RB Elijah Walker, the De Anza’s offensive player of the year last season. Senior SS/WR Maulidi Saleh is another player to watch. “He is very explosive in special teams,” Rosa said, adding that Saleh returned three kickoffs for TDs. Wilcox closes out its league schedule at home against Los Gatos on Oct. 27.

Season opener: Aug. 25 at Valley Christian, 7 p.m.

No. 3 SACRED HEART PREP

Coach: Mark Grieb

Record in 2022: 9-2

What to expect: Sacred Heart Prep captured the Bay Division title last season behind departed standouts such as WR Carter Shaw and LB Shay O’Kelly, going 5-0 to complete an 8-2 regular season and a spot in the CCS Division I playoffs. Coach Mark Grieb still has many players back from that team, including junior OL/DL Aseli Fangupo and senior RB/LB Anthony Noto. Grieb called Noto an “ironman” who is “known for making game-changing plays in big games.” Three more seniors – WR/DB Charlie Stuart, OL/DL Marat Misra and TE/LB George Smith – also are expected to have important roles. Last season, SHP beat Menlo-Atherton, Burlingame and Mountain View by no fewer than three touchdowns and Los Gatos by three. The Gators open this season against two West Catholic Athletic League schools, Archbishop Riordan and Sacred Heart Cathedral. 

Season opener: Aug. 25 at Archbishop Riordan, 3:30 p.m.

No. 4 MENLO-ATHERTON

Coach: Chris Saunders

Record in 2022: 5-6

What to expect: Chris Saunders, now in his fourth season as head coach, said his team is “very blessed” with a wealth of young talent. That group will blend in with a number of veterans, including seven linebackers who have varsity experience. But any list of M-A’s top players starts with college prospect Alek Marshall (6-7, 235), who is one of the Bay Area’s premier tight ends. “Mismatch nightmare,” Saunders said. Senior OLB Devin Hyde (6-5, 225) is a physical specimen and WR/DB Jayden Monroe is explosive and powerful. C Aidan Anguiano is the team’s most experienced lineman. While noting Anguiano‘s impressive physical attributes, Saunders added, “His biggest strength is his IQ and ability to get the OL in the right calls and checks.” DE/OL Khayri Jett is a strong pass rusher and run defender. The team’s first two league games are at home against Wilcox on Oct. 6 and Sacred Heart Prep on Oct. 13. 

Season opener: Aug. 25 vs. Bellarmine at San Jose City College, 7 p.m.

No. 5 BURLINGAME

Coach: John Philipopoulos

Record in 2022: 5-6

What to expect: Longtime coach John Philipopolous hasn’t had many sub-.500 seasons at Burlingame, with last year being the first for the program since 2012. The revamped Bay Division presents new challenges for the Panthers, who bring back only one first-team all-league player from last season, senior DB/TE Zach Shapiro. He has attracted interest from Ivy League schools. The QB and top three rushers from last fall have all graduated. Eddie Gill, now a junior, is the only returning player to attempt a pass last season. Shapiro and Eric Breazeale are the only players back to have caught more than two passes in 2022. The top five teams in this division advance to the playoffs, so a postseason berth is very possible.

Season opener: Aug. 25 vs. Capuchino, 7 p.m.

No. 6 MOUNTAIN VIEW

Coach: Tim Lugo

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Record in 2022: 4-8

What to expect: Experience shouldn’t be an issue as the Spartans return several skill players from last season’s team that reached the CCS Division IV semifinals. QB Kevin Conway, now a senior, should be more comfortable in coach Tim Lugo’s system after throwing for 2,130 yards and 21 TDs with 20 interceptions as a junior. “We are expecting big things from him,” Lugo said. LB Alex Bocchieri is back after receiving first-team all-league recognition. He will play some tight end this fall, Lugo noted. Senior WR/DB Lex Silver is coming off a season in which he caught 54 passes for 813 yards and nine TDs, and FS/WR Viliami Sekona is entering his third season on varsity. He showed terrific instincts as a free safety over the summer, Lugo said. RB/DE Arturo Hernandez, the team leader in sacks last year, has gotten bigger and stronger in the off-season.   

Season opener: Aug. 25 at The King’s Academy, 7 p.m.

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