Sacred Heart Prep made big progress last season, going from 3-7 in Mark Grieb's first year as head coach to 11-2, a season that concluded with a 35-34 loss to Aptos in the Central Coast Section Open Division III championship game.
The Gators lost some talented seniors off that team, particularly on the line, but the future looks bright with a number of key contributors returning.
Over the offseason Raymond Price III, who started every game at quarterback as a sophomore, announced he was transferring to Menlo-Atherton.
"Ultimately he felt M-A was the best fit for him,'' Grieb said. "I wish him the best.''
Grieb feels he has a capable replacement in Teddy Purcell.
"It'll be a switch when you lose a guy like Raymond who was such an athlete,'' Grieb said. "But we have an excellent quarterback in Teddy Purcell. He has demonstrated outstanding leadership, had a phenomenal year at the JV level throwing the ball accurately down the field. While it will look different, Teddy brings some real talent. He can keep teams honest and open up room for the ground game. I'm not concerned about the quarterback position at all. I'm more concerned about filling the line positions. They make everything go.''
The offensive line is always a key for SHP in its run-oriented fly offense. The holes on the line were created by the graduation of Jake Davison and Ben Horvath.
Peter Desler and Cole Guttner are returning starters. Desler played center last year but might move to tackle. Guttner started at guard.
Tevita Moimoi (6-0, 220) returns as the featured running back. He rushed for 1,005 yards last season and has been picking up numerous offers from colleges, most recently from Harvard, Columbia and San Diego, among others.
"A great athlete, a great student who devotes a lot of time in service,'' Grieb said of Moimoi. "And he's really humble. He's good at motivating guys, getting them to show toughness.''
Dante Cacchione, the leading receiver a year ago with 29 catches for 437 yards, returns as a primary pass-catching target for Purcell
Alejandro Torres, Tafu Mahoni and Thomas Hardy are vying for time at fullback. Bryant Gavello, Jackson Girouard and Wilson Weisel are the flybacks.
All-league kicker Ronan Donnelly also returns.
Hardy and Charlie Selna (6-6, 220) will start on the defensive line. JP Frimel is a standout at linebacker.
"He's just been fantastic as far as being a team leader,'' Grieb said.
Moimoi will also play linebacker.
Five of the 10 teams that played for CCS championships last year were from the Peninsula Athletic League. The Gators finished second in the PAL Bay behind M-A, the CCS Division I and eventual state 3-AA champion.
CCS Division IV champion Burlingame and D-V champion The King's Academy have both moved up to the Bay this season.
"M-A is the favorite,'' Grieb said. "They were dominant last year. They lost some players but they have a lot coming back. Burlingame is going to be tough. Those two jump out at you.''