Thursday, November 03, 2016

St. Anthony Saints: A Proper Long Beach Prep Football Team

I am thoroughly disgusted in my alma mater, Lakewood. Their football team is no longer watchable. Here is something you should know about me: watching high school football is no different that watching any sports event. I have expectations for the teams I care about. I demand, as a requirement: 1. proper mastery of the game on offense and defense, 2. consistency against comparable opposition, 3. convincing victories that affirm 1. and 2. Lakewood has failed in all three categories and does not deserve to be in the playoffs. In fact, given their loss to Cabrillo, it would be a miracle if they are able to upset the Panthers of Long Beach Jordan.

Mike Wadley, who is the girls volleyball coach of the Lancers, is one of my biggest critics. However, his criticism of my criticism is unfounded and naive. 1. The quality of football in the Moore League has dropped. 2. Long Beach Poly, who have a new coach apparently, are also struggling this season and were just Sandusky'd by an actual, proper prep team in the IMG Academy Ascenders, a convoy of all-stars from Florida. 3. The Moore League is playing in the wrong division and needs to move down because it is the weakest of all the leagues in the Pac-5, the highest in the CIF Southern Section. 4. The public schools in my area are not retaining the best players. The private schools are getting the better players in my area. Because of his inability to open his eyes to the new reality that I have accepted, he has been permanently blocked on my Twitter.

One of the schools that has been benefitting from all this happens to be a small school near downtown Long Beach. It's a school called St. Anthony. It is one of the oldest high schools in the city and is exactly next to St. Anthony's Church, the primary church in Long Beach, and one of downtown's top attractions. The team name is called the Saints. Their colors are purple, white and silver.

Their football team is coached by man named Mario Morales, who used to coach at Long Beach Wilson, whose Bruins defeated the Saints earlier this year. Their stadium, however, is off-campus, but has been their ground for a long time: Clark Avenue Field, which I took some photos of on my Flickr years ago. That's all changing on Friday, when I watch my first high school football game for the first time in a few years, since I was taken away from a game between Lakewood and Cabrillo at Cabrillo High School in handcuffs before being released.

By the way, this season, Cabrillo did defeat Lakewood. I am convinced that unless the Lancers start recruiting good players and stop losing out to the private schools, this team will find itself again. Right now, I will not waste my money on an alma mater that presents an inferior product and an atrocious return on investment. It's gonna take a million-dollar handout, lump sum, no fake cash, to convince me to watch these idiots show their inferior mastery of the game, maybe two. And I mean it.

But back to the match at hand. St. Anthony plays in a four-team league called the Santa Fe League. Three other teams from three others schools play in this league: the Valiants of St. Genevieve High School of Panorama City, Los Angeles; the Stars of Mary Star of the Sea High School in San Pedro; and the opponent that St. Anthony is facing on Friday: the Mariners of St. Monica Catholic High School, based out guessed it, Santa Monica, California. The Avalon Schools Lancers field an 8-man side that plays in the Express League, another four-team league. They, however, went unbeaten in the regular season, going 8-0 and are doing the postseason business against the Lightning of the Sage Hill School of Newport Coast.

Currently, the Mariners are clearly out of the postseason. They come into Clark Avenue Field with a 3-6 record, 0-2 in league play, winless. A St. Monica victory won't change St. Anthony's playoff situation as they have won the tiebreaker with St. Genevieve and Mary Star. On the other hand, the Saints, well, they want to fine tune their game for the playoffs, they want to win Santa Fe outright, and they want to send their seniors out with a bang.

Watching St. Anthony football is nothing new to me. I have experienced the team win games, lose games, I have been to a few of these matches in the past. In fact, I even helped do chain gang work during a match between the Saints and the Crusaders of Downey Valley Christian, a team that, historically, has had form against St. Anthony and who inflicted the team their second loss of the season. I remember watching St. Anthony face this somewhat obscure team named Verbum Dei of Los Angeles, another team that is also not getting it done at 4-5 (2-1 league). I watched the kids warmup with an "oooh" and "aaah" chant. That, to me, is my only relevant impression of Verbum Dei football. All hype, but lacking in talent.

Verbum Dei compete in the South Catholic. The Knights of Bishop Montgomery, a school from Torrance (known more for its four public teams in Torrance, North, South and West), currently lead the South Catholic at 6-3 (3-0 league). One of their opponents happened to be...St. Anthony. They were smashed, 43-6. Of course, they also lost to the Valiants, 23-6 two weeks prior, but that's a different story.

In any case, I am more than motivated to watch high school football and I think I have found a winner in St. Anthony, a team with the talent that Lakewood is supposed to have but does not. I don't deal with jobbers to the stars like Poly, either. As mentioned before, St. Anthony tick 1, 2, and 3. The expectation is that St. Monica (who have been hilariously designated as their rival school [although, to be fair, St. Monica have had form against St. Anthony in the past]) will get smoked, and get smoked badly.

There was, believe or not, a time where St. Anthony football was just not that good. A lot of soul searching had to be done to sway the youngsters coming out of Pop Warner to give the Saints a shot. They have had a massive shot in the arm ever since. Since 2010, they have had enough players to field a JV side. Morales took over the program in 2012, and since 2013, they have been a regular in the playoffs. Their best season came in 2014, when they finished 11-2 on the year.

Last season, the Saints finished 6-5 but still made the playoffs on a 3-1 league record. That one league loss? St. Monica, 17-16, at Santa Monica College, the home of the Corsairs, whose team this year has regressed from last season. In this aspect, there is reason to believe that there will be payback. I would be tempted to lay it on these Mariners if St. Anthony demolishes these guys by halftime but my job is to simply film what's going on and also take HD photos of the old stadium with its rustic, rusty old bleachers that may or may not have gotten a facelift thanks to donations since I was last at this venue. So I would be wasting my breath giving St. Monica the riot act. Too busy filming, too angry at Lakewood Football for making me come to Clark Field instead.

If St. Monica pull off a shock result on Friday, it might discourage me from coming back to watch the Saints for a while. I don't earn six figures, but even if I did, an upset like this is a long-haul dealbreaker. It's all up the Saints to prove to me that in terms of watchablity, they are a more-than-competent alternative to the worse-than-Trump's mess that is my alma mater's football program.

One more thing: Mike Christensen, my former P.E. teacher at Lakewood, is back as head coach of the team. When the coach during my time at the school is now the coach this year after going through so many coaching changes and a lack of stability, this tells me one thing: stay away from John T. Ford Stadium until the flogs there clean up their bloody act. The principal at this school, Mario Jimenez, must think I'm a shill-faced jackass or something. Well you know what they say: it takes one to know one. It is, undoubtedly, a complete disgrace how Lakewood High School Lancer Football has now been reduced to an unwatchable, losing shell of themselves and it's for this reason I have officially adopted the Saints of St. Anthony as my main prep team in the area until further notice.

Somebody give me a flaming effigy. Go give 'em a good martyring, boys. Up the Saints.

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