By Jeremy Balan
So many things are changing on the campus of Archbishop Riordan High School this semester, it’s hard to keep track of them all.
School President Patrick Daly is making sweeping changes throughout the school, including the athletic department, and football is the first step in the plan to return Riordan athletics to excellence.
“Our mission is changing the culture and it’s not just on the football field, it’s in the classroom, it’s in the community,” said first-year head coach Richard Sweeney, one of many new additions to the athletic department. “There’s a lot of things that need to be addressed here and they are being addressed on a daily basis.”
After a Central Coast Section championship in 2007, the last three seasons have been dismal for the Crusaders, with a 3-26-1 record, while being outscored 1,103-346.
“I make almost no references to last year, almost none,” Sweeney said. “We are building this thing from the ground level. Everyone knows we’re picked to finish last in the [West Catholic Athletic League]. The program has been down. That’s why changing the culture is the No. 1 thing.”
But there is reason for optimism, with a strong incoming freshman class and a marquee name at quarterback.
Sophomore Zach Masoli, the younger brother of former Serra, City College and University of Oregon star Jeremiah Masoli, will be the starting quarterback for the Crusaders.
Masoli certainly has the pedigree and apparently the talent to be an elite quarterback, but Sweeney is taking things slow with the young signal caller.
“He’s got to manage the game. He doesn’t have to be the game, he has to manage it,” Sweeney said. “He’s got an excellent skill set, but he’s a sophomore. When you say sophomore, there’s all kinds of things that go with that. He’s young, but he has a chance to be a starting quarterback in the best league in Northern California.”
Aiding Masoli will be a strong group of senior wide receivers, led by senior Nate Warren, who will also be starting at free safety.
“We’re coming back full-force this year,” Warren said. “We just need to be the best we can be, and there’s nothing more we can do than that. We’re going to have challenges, but we have to learn to overcome them.”
The Crusaders won’t be running the ball-control option offense they ran in 2010, but Sweeney is solidly committed to the rushing game.
“I want to run the football for a lot of reasons,” Sweeney said. “It helps your defense, it helps your offense. My plan is to make sure that we get the ball in the hands of the playmakers, whether it’s handing it to them or throwing.”
The offense should get a help with field position from speedy senior return man Christopher Davis, but a point of concern is improving the defense, which allowed nearly 50 points per game in 2010.
The teeth of that defense will be senior middle linebacker Drew Jackson, who has now played for three different coaching staffs since joining the varsity team in his sophomore season. Jackson will also be the Crusaders’ starting tight end.
“I can set a tone on defense for sure,” Jackson said. “I’ve been in the varsity program since sophomore year, so I can kinda tell everyone else what they’re expected to do. I just want to lead and set that tone.”
With so much change, gauging wins and losses for Riordan this season is not an easy task, but challenging for a CCS or WCAL title is an unlikely proposition.
Sweeney stresses patience, but is eager to get started.
“We want to be competitive and play with great effort. Those are the successes we can measure early on. If we do those things, we’ve got some talent, and there’s a chance we can sneak up on somebody,” Sweeney said. “I played at [St. Ignatius], I coached at Sacred Heart [Cathedral]. I’ve been in the City a long time, but I’ve been away for a while. My goal is to work every day to make this the best program in San Francisco, then start working south.”
2011 Schedule – WCAL games in bold
Week 0: Fri. 9/2 – @ Dougherty Valley (San Ramon), 7 p.m.
Week 1: Fri. 9/9 – vs. Sacred Heart Prep (Atherton), 3:30 p.m.
Week 2: Sat. 9/17 – @ St. Mary’s (Albany), 1:30 p.m.
Week 3: Bye
Week 4: Sat. 10/1 – @ Valley Christian (San Jose), 7 p.m.
Week 5: Sat. 10/8 – vs. Sacred Heart Cathedral, 2 p.m.
Week 6: Sat. 10/15 – vs. Bellarmine (San Jose), 1 p.m.
Week 7: Sat. 10/22 – vs. Serra (San Mateo), 1 p.m.
Week 8: Fri. 10/28 – vs. Mitty (San Jose) @ Foothill College, 7 p.m.
Week 9: Sat. 11/5 – @ St. Ignatius, 7 p.m.
Week 10: Sat. 11/12 – vs. St. Francis (Mountain View), 1 p.m.