So here we go again if you’re a die-hard WCAL football fan like myself and in desperate need of your yearly WCAL Football “Fix” you won't have to wait much longer. So looking ahead what if anything will be different in the upcoming 2017-18 season? Will the same 3 teams from last season dominate the other 5 teams? The league seems to run in 2-3 year cycles based upon the classes of athletes at each school until that pool of soph, junior & senior talent dissipates. Whether that is the case this year remains to be seen. Last season was a roller coaster of ups & downs and we need not look any further than Serra who lost their first 4 games before embarking on a record setting 10-game win streak only to lose by 2-points in a state Div. 2-A title game to Sierra Canyon [2 missed extra points – final score 42-40 Sierra Canyon]. Valley Christian who’d been plagued by early playoff losses in recent years finished with the WCAL’s best overall record at 13-2 and in their own state 2-AA title game only to lose 21-17 to Madison of San Diego. So even without a state title win, 5 of the WCAL League’s 8 teams made it deep into the CCS playoffs and 2 of the 8 teams made it to state bowl games. I would say that 2 teams from any league in CA making it to state bowl games would indicate a very good season from a very strong league. I’ll be dissecting the teams and their schedules both last season & upcoming and we’ll see what impact players have departed and those that are returning. Last season Valley Christian, Serra and St. Francis all shared the league crown in a 3-way tie, which seems to becoming a habit. Again the 2017 season appears to favor possibly 3 teams with another 2 within striking distance. Usually we have a “dark horse” team within the league, but that remains to be seen this early on. The SF teams did not fair well last season and we’ll see if there is a change this season, at least among the power structure of the 3 schools and who rules SF. Once again the WCAL schools have a challenging pre-season with many tough opponents prior to league play. First we’ll start with how last season ended and see where the teams pick up heading into the new season upcoming. As with most season’s the WCAL lost a ton of talent to graduation for 2016, but once again returns many of its best players and added player potential from several very good JV teams and even a few promising players from last years Frosh teams. Here are the final standings from last years’ 2016 season. Varsity: VC, Serra & SF in 3 way tie for league crown at 6-1 in league play, Bell’s at 4-3,Mitty 3-4, St. Ignatius 5-2, SHC at 1-6 and Riordan falling to 0-7. Overall: VC at 13-2 played superbly throughout the season & only 7 points separated this team from a perfect season, losing to St. Francis 13-10 in O/T and then 21-17 to a powerful Madison SoCal team in the state final. This WAS a very good Valley Christian team. Serra at 10-5 had a very rough start with perhaps the toughest pre-season schedule in Nor Cal. Somehow Serra licked their wounds and moved past the tough losses with an improbable 41-40 win over St. Francis in double overtime. I saw the game and worth watching again on video if you missed it. Serra had a historical season thanks to one Sitaleki “Leki” Nunn one of the more dynamic players to come out of the WCAL in recent years – simply a pleasure to watch! St. Francis was also a very, very good team in 2016 and one of the favored teams to win the league crown outright with their bruising RB Cyrus Habibi-Likio. While the Lancer’s season was successful it was a bit disappointing for their fans who were expecting a bit more. St. Francis did not fall short by much however with their only 2 losses being a double overtime loss to Serra by 41-40 and a CCS Open loss to Serra 31-17 when Serra was “clicking on all cylinders" with Leki Nunn again healthy. The Bell’s started out strong, but perhaps did not have the athletes and depth as in previous seasons ending at 7-5. The Bell’s somewhat “running out of gas” was evident in their 48-13 dismantling by Serra [the Bell’s worst ever loss to Serra] and then losing to Menlo-Atherton 21-0 in the playoffs after previously beating MA 34-20 early in the season. The Mitty Monarch’s at 7-6 suffered some ugly losses to Serra & SF, however played well in playoffs beating both Oak Grove & Los Gatos in playoffs before losing respectfully to Serra in the finals. St. Ignatius at 4-6 was simply not competitive against the upper tier WCAL teams. S.I. lost a great deal to graduation, was weak at the skill positions and on defense and was in a “rebuilding year” needing help from the underclassmen in 2016. There was discussion of football on the decline at S.I. due to parents concerns & athletes switching to lacrosse or other sports, so this year will certainly be telling. SHC had a difficult year with a smaller squad and plagued by injuries once again, which without the “troops”” is hard to compete. Hopefully the Football Gods will smile on the Irish and their key skill players will escape injury this season. A full squad is crucial as smaller rosters losing key 2-way players are doomed early on. Riordan Crusader’s seemingly one of the most watched teams in WCAL fell to a dismal 2-8 and 0-7 in WCAL last season and their fans groans could be heard throughout the internet [let alone the games]. Graduation from the very talented 2015 team virtually took all the Crusader's top players. I predict that it would be hard to be worse than last season for the Crusader’s and that any change should likely be an improvement. An improvement at the QB position and offensive coaching is key to the Crusader’s improving. JV Final Standings for 2016: SF 10-0 Undefeated and League Champs Valley Christian 6-4 Bells 6-3-1 S.I. 5-4-1 Serra 3-6-1 SHC 4-6 Mitty 1-8-1 ARHS 1-9 Frosh Final Standings 2016: VC 7-0-1 League Champ Mitty 8-1 Serra 7-1-1 Bellarmine 5-4 SF 4-5 SHC 3-6 ARHS 1-7 S.I. 1-7-1 Combined JV & Frosh Records for 2016 VC 13-4-1 SF 14-5 Bells 11-7-1 Serra 10-7-2 Mitty 9-9-1 SHC 7-12 S.I. 6-11-1 ARHS 2-16 So somewhat like the varsity level the lower 2 teams combined records fall into 3 tiers of talent with VC & SF at the top, Bells, Serra & Mitty in the middle & SHC, S.I. & ARHS at the lower level. The one "X" factor as always will be if a talented QB or RB emerges for any of the lower tier teams. Looking at Freemans ratings and projections based upon last season's ending records, along with returning players and JV team records these are the initial pre-season ratings for the 8 WCAL teams versus last seasons ending power rating: SF 51.3 [+5.2] VC 50.3 [-2.2] Serra 49.9 [-.1] Bells 33.9 [-3.4] S.I. 33.6 [+8.6] Mitty 28.8 [-6.5] SHC 17.7 [+5.5] ARHS 14.5 [+7.5] So what does all this mean if anything? Sometimes these are fairly accurate predictions of team strength while other times I've highly disputed them. I'll translate for those of you not familiar with them: * SF is a bit better this year even without Cyrus Habibi-Likio, likely due to their returning QB and their returning defensive players [who were very good BTW last season]. * VC is down slightly with the loss of their top RB and athletic QB from last season. * Serra is rated about the same - they lose the South Bay/Peninsula POY of the All Bay Area Team in Leki Nunn while bringing back most other skill players. Serra also has a very good #2 QB who played in numerous games including 4 full games when Nunn was injured - winning all 4 of his starts. Serra will once again be hard to stop on offense. * Bells drop again for a 2nd year in a row losing key players again to graduation and will rely on new talent to bolster their team. * S.I. shows the biggest gain of any team and not sure why other than S.I. was not very competitive last season and must surely be better this season with new skill players. * Mitty drops again for a number of reasons including loss of key players and the disparity in some of the scores in their losses. To the Monarchs credit they ended 2016 with 3 well played games in post season. * SHC shows a significant gain likely based on JV record and weak record in 2016 for varsity. * ARHS shows a sizeable gain to bring the Crusader's up closer to SHC which is likely who they will compete with [to see if either is a challenge to S.I.]. With the Crusader's 3 teams having a combined record of 4-24 in 2016 and the initial roster numbers for 2017 Riordan is odds on to win more than 4 games between 3 teams incl at the varsity level [2 wins]. Next Up: Review teams 2016 records by schedule and where they're headed for 2017.