Football Preview: Masoli can only be as good as Riordan’s line

Senior linebacker Mark Mulligan, who finished third in the league in tackles, will again be the leader of the Riordan defense. (Photo by Devin Chen)

By Jeremy Balan

It’s hard to say just how good Zach Masoli could have been on the Riordan High School football team last season.

As a sophomore, most of his athletic ability on the field was shown scrambling, but not by choice.

He was running for his life.

The Crusaders had the worst offensive line in the West Catholic Athletic League last season and opponents exposed that weakness, putting Masoli under constant pressure.

Protecting him and giving him time to make plays is of the utmost importance for the Crusaders this season.

Riordan junior quarterback Zach Masoli showed potential in his sophomore season, but will need time from the offensive line to blossom. (Photo by Devin Chen)

“It starts up front,” said second-year Riordan head coach Rich Sweeney. “That will help Zach [and] that will help our running game. It’s part of the excitement around here.”

Although Sweeney admits the line is a work in progress, the group will be better, led by senior Nicholas Reese, a 6-foot-5, 260-pound left tackle.

“Our whole team has just worked harder,” Reese said. “We’ve all lifted, we’ve all ran, we’ve all worked harder than we ever had before. We just want it to pay off.”

Add new offensive line coach A.J. Poti, who played at Penn State and is coming off a season with the San Jose SaberCats of the Arena Football League, and there is a reason for optimism.

“The majority of these kids are juniors and there are five or six really solid players,” Poti said. “As far as protecting our talent, I think they’ll do a lot better than last year.”

Even with pressure coming after nearly every snap last season, Masoli was still able to throw for 1,205 yards, nine touchdowns and just three interceptions, and was named the WCAL’s Sophomore of the Year.

Already visibly bigger than last season, Masoli has taken a leadership role on an offense that still has plenty to prove.

“Whether it’s fair or not, that is what comes with the quarterback position,” Sweeney said of Masoli’s leadership expectations. “He’s an extremely outstanding athlete and he has all the tools, but I explained to him that he needs to be the Andrew Luck of Riordan football. That is the growth and maturity needed at the quarterback position.”

With protection and a few weapons, like 6-foot-5 junior tight end Robert Valencia, Masoli’s numbers could spike significantly, and he’s already seen signs of improvement.

“We went to a camp at San Jose State and the offensive line really protected me,” Masoli said. “I felt like I was Drew Brees or Peyton Manning, just sitting back there with all the time in the world. They’re going to hold their own against WCAL schools.”

Another issue for the Crusaders last season was the defense, which allowed 42.6 points per game in WCAL play.

The strength of the defense will again be senior linebacker Mark Mulligan, who finished third in the league in total tackles (116) in his junior season.

Mulligan will also be a part of an inexperienced running back committee. Senior Trey Gunter is the lead returning rusher, with 60 yards on 23 carries last season and Masoli is second with 55 yards on 88 carries.

Senior left tackle Nicholas Reese (77) will be the protecting quarterback Zach Masoli’s blind side this season. (Photo by Devin Chen)

“He’s an excellent athlete,” Sweeney said of Mulligan. “Last year, I think he played four sports. He even tried to mix in lacrosse the same time he was running track. He’s a physical player and he runs well. I see him having a huge senior season.”

But Mulligan’s workload also speaks to Riordan’s most significant obstacle — depth in a league that is arguably the deepest in Northern California.

Riordan will suit up between 30-35 varsity players this season to go against WCAL squads that regularly feature 50 or more. St. Francis led the league with 65 rostered players last season, while the Crusaders had 37.

“Our numbers aren’t very good again,” Sweeney said. “We’ll be in the low 30s for the varsity and in the mid 20s for the [junior varsity], which isn’t enough, but we have quality kids who are working really hard right now. That’s where we are right now.”

The changes at Riordan, not just in football, can’t be ignored, but a rebuilding process in the WCAL does not come easily. Finding a win in WCAL, however, for a team that was winless and outscored 298-65 in league play last season, may also be farther in the horizon.

“It’s all a growing process,” Masoli said. “Riordan, as a whole high school, we’re all taking that seriously. As a school, in football, in sports, in everything.”

2012 Schedule – WCAL games in bold

Week 0: Sat. 9/1 – @ Lincoln, 2 p.m.
Week 1: Sat. 9/8 – vs. St. Mary’s (Berkeley), 1 p.m.
Week 2: Sat. 9/15 – vs. Mission, 1 p.m.
Week 3: (Bye)
Week 4: Fri. 9/28 – @ Bellarmine (San Jose) @ San Jose City College, 7 p.m.
Week 5: Fri. 10/5 – @ Serra (San Mateo), 7 p.m.
Week 6: Sat. 10/13 – vs. Mitty (San Jose), 1 p.m.
Week 7: Sat. 10/20 – vs. St. Ignatius, 1 p.m.
Week 8: Fri. 10/26 – @ St. Francis (Mountain View), 7:30 p.m.
Week 9: Fri. 11/2 – vs. Sacred Heart Cathedral @ Kezar Stadium, 7 p.m.
Week 10: Sat. 11/10 – vs. Valley Christian (San Jose), 1 p.m.

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15 Comments

  1. GCJ 01 says:

    Riordan should have a better season this year. Both their football and basketball programs took a hit last year and I expect them to bounce back in both sports.

  2. JoJo says:

    Good luck to the boys on Phelan. I’m looking forward to the next several years as they rebuild.

  3. Colormepurple says:

    Yes, as a parent, I know that the guys, coaches and trainers have been putting in the work. Looking forward to (and praying for) a better season. Thanks for the preview! GO Crusaders!

  4. CrusaderNation says:

    i think Sweeney and Company are doing a great job. The young men are tough, committed and will show better. I agree that the QB can’t be running for his life every play, but the new system, the junior class and serious commitment will make a huge improvement. Defense wins games, offense puts fans in the seats but special teams wins championships. Ask the 49ers.

    There was that day in 1970 when we beat Bellermine. This team has that same kind of mentality. SI and SH should be interesting.

    Go Masoli & Co. Kick some ass!!!!

  5. JJ says:

    Hopefully, offensive line coach AJ Poti can teach these youngsters what he learned from legendary coach Joe Paterno and translate that into a successful season. So if Masoli is the Andrew Luck of the WCAL, who is Jack Stinn, the Zach Maynard (CAL QB) of the WCAL?

    • ARHS Stats says:

      I think, we could call him the USC QB from Mater Dei. Matt Barkley.

      In my Opinion, Jack Stinn is one of the top QB’s in the WCAL this season.

      Not that Masoli is that far behind him, and could even have a better season, if everything works out.

      • wcalsf says:

        ARHS Stats, when will the rosters be published? can’t wait for football!

      • CrusaderNation says:

        Hey ARHS STATS don’t you think Masoil is more CAM NEWTON? Good arm strength, great running ability, good vision, quiet leadership by example. If his line does the job, Riodan is going to achieve great things. I saw them a bit over the summer when Coach Lav came out and he even commented they looked sharp, they looked good and he had good expectations for them.

        Tear down those goal posts! (Throw back to Bellermine game)

        Masoli & Co sup[pprted by a good defense. Yeah thats what i am talking about.

        Go Crusaders!!!!

        • JJ says:

          Cam Newton is 6’5″, 250 lbs. Masoli looks about 6 feet,190 lbs. I guess Zach Masoli could be the mini-me version of Cam Newton. I thought Jack Stinn is more like Zach Maynard since they are both lefties, Matt Barkley is a righty who throws “bombs” like former SI Qb Zac Lee.

          • ARHS Stats says:

            ok

            I was thinking of overall talent, and I think Matt Barkley is considered the best Pac-12 QB.

            I was not thinking with which hand they threw with

        • ARHS Stats says:

          I don’t compare Zach to any QB.

          Zach Masoli is the Archbishop Riordan QB and may be one of the better Riordan QB’s when his career at Riordan is done in 2 years.

          This season and Next Season.

          The Goal Posts were torn down in 1966 on November 4th, when Riordan beat Bellarmine 13-10

  6. crusaderfan says:

    i think that if Trey Gunter can reach his potential this season the crusaders should have a strong running game. Also if Chris Hall can do what he does best and Zach Masoli can hit him, they will be unstoppable. We have the weapons, all we have to do is use them. GO CRUSADERS!!!!!!!!!!

  7. Tc says:

    Don’t forget 1979 victory over Bells at City College.
    Calvello to Ferrigno all day to keep them in it.
    Jordan’s 52 yd field goal to win it.
    Classic!

  8. Big guy 24 says:

    The reality is that Riordan still needs more kids. The WCAL is as tough as it comes for all teams, its a team game kids so all of you keep giving 100% and keep fighting cause Riordan only succeeds if all the players get better and stronger week to week…Good luck kids.

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