Serra High School has never lacked talent on the football field.
The only thing lacking in their rich tradition of talented teams is Central Coast Section titles. They’ve had two to be exact, winning their last section title in 2011.
The 2013 version of the Padres might be the most talented ever. But the thing that will make or break Serra’s title hopes this season can’t be found in pre-season hype or in between the hashes, but in the locker room.
“We worked on senior leadership all of July,” said Serra head coach Patrick Walsh. “I wouldn’t say its natural for a lot of these kids. Sometimes coaches get lucky with natural born leaders and this team doesn’t have it. We’ve spent a lot of time on it and I think it’s improving.”
In many instances, leadership isn’t created, but it snakes around a roster looking to bestow itself on one person. While the entire senior class will be relied upon to guide a team full of talent to the promised land, quarterback Matt Fa’aita will be giving all the directions at the quarterback spot.
“He’s been a lot more verbal with organizing the offense and being a strong leader,” Walsh said. “It’s something that’s been bestowed upon him based on his position.”
Since being named the starter, Fa’aita has taken the responsibility of being the leader and ran with it, something that he does extremely well. A former running back, Fa’aita has the speed and the know-how to run Walsh’s read-option attack, a type of offense that can’t succeed without the threat of a mobile quarterback.
Joining Fa’aita in the Padres backfield are a couple of players who can find the end zone from anywhere on the field. Junior Kava Cassidy and sophomore Kelipi Lataimua are two of the quickest, and most talented running backs in this year’s WCAL crop.
“(Cassidy) we’ll definitely carry the load for us offensively,” Walsh said. “(Lataimua) is a different kind of back who gives us the opportunity to mix up the looks for the defense. He’s a starter.”
Protecting Fa’aita and creating running lanes for the backs is an offensive line with a lot of questions. The Padres return Ryan Rudolph as the lone starter from a year ago. Without much experience, a group of talented weapons scattered throughout the Serra offense will help the newcomers to the offensive line settle into the speed of varsity play.
Probably the most important player to a successful offensive attack this season is senior Hamilton Anoa’i. Playing the role as the Padres’ Swiss army knife, expect Anoa’I to line up all over the field come game day.
“He’s a playmaker on offense and gives us good size at safety,” Walsh said.
The strongest unit for Serra this season will be their defensive backfield, a unit filled with athletic two-way players. Senior strong safety Tyson Terreros brings a hard-hitting presence to the secondary that will give opposing receivers nightmares in the week leading up their date with Serra.
Leading the interior of the defense is Notre Dame commit Matt Dickerson and senior Daniel Lavulo. While not being as talked about as Dickerson, Walsh calls Lavulo, a three-year starter on the defensive line, probably the best football player on his team.
While loaded in talent, the thing that will separate this year’s version of the Serra Padres from others is what they can accomplish off the field in regards to their senior leadership.
“It’s everything,” Walsh said.
Coach: Patrick Walsh
2012 record: 5-2 WCAL, 9-3 overall
Key Players: Matt Dickerson (sr. OL/DL); Hamilton Anoa’i(sr. WR/S); Daniel Lavulo (sr. DL); Matt Fa’aita (sr. QB); Ryan Rudolph (sr. OL); Tyson Terreros (sr. SS); Kava Cassidy (jr. RB/DB); Jericho Tufonu (sr. DL/FB/G); Kelipi Lataimua (so. RB/DB)
2013 schedule (home games in CAPS): 9/7 DE LA SALLE, 1 p.m.; 9/20 @Encinal, 7 p.m.; 9/26 @Buhach Colony, 7 p.m.; 10/04@Bellarmine, 7 p.m.; 10/11 SACRED HEART CATHEDRAL, 7 p.m.; 10/19 VALLEY CHRISTIAN, 1 p.m.; 10/26 @Saint Ignatius, 1 p.m.; 11/1 @St. Francis, 7 p.m.; 11/9 @Archbishop Riordan, 1 p.m.; 11/16 ARCHBISHOP MITTY, 1 p.m.