St. John Bosco football embracing ‘six-game playoffs’ season – Press Telegram

St. John Bosco High’s football team won the state title as well as the national championship in 2019. But there will be no such possibility during what is about to be a shortened season this spring, thanks to the coronavirus pandemic that crushed the 2020 fall campaign.

There will be no playoffs, and a couple of Braves admit they are a bit bummed about that. Then again, they are stoked to know they will finally get a chance to play when they open the season against Sierra Canyon on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. No more than 800 fans will be allowed in the stadium.

“At first, I guess so,” said Kansas-bound linebacker Andrew Simpson, when asked if having no playoffs bothers him. “But now it’s just about playing and playing to be best of our ability, putting good stuff on film and just winning; that’s the ultimate goal.”

Wide receiver Jode McDuffie echoed those sentiments.

“Since there’s no playoffs, it is kind of a bugger,” he said. “But it just feels good that they blessed us to play six games. It’s better than nothing, so I can’t really complain about it.”

Indeed, the games are about to begin for this team. One of the big question is, who is going to take over at quarterback for the graduated DJ Uiagalelei, who is now at Clemson. The two duking it out are sophomore Pierce Clarkson (6-1, 186) and junior Katin Houser (6-3, 193), both of whom have received a handful of Division I offers.

Coach Jason Negro broke it down after practice Wednesday.

“Yeah, those two guys have battled it out,” he said. “I don’t think we’ve had enough evaluation, you know, opportunities to really determine who the guy is, so they’re both going to play. They’re both incredible kids, they’ve done everything that we’ve asked them to do to this point.

“They’re very, very similar in terms of their production up to now. And I expect them both to play well.”

Negro was asked if he can see himself playing both guys the entire six-game season.

“Potentially,” he said. “We’ve told them, and they’re very aware that one of them needs to separate. If they don’t, within our opinion, then we’re going to continue to play them both. I want them to have confidence, I want them to continue to work hard.

“They’re good friends, they work hard together. But at some point, we would like to be able to settle on one. But that’s going to be up to them.”

The two will have a big offensive line in front of them. Returning are Max Gibbs (6-7, 338 pounds) Edward Riley (5-10, 291) and Earnest Greene (6-5, 332). A key newcomer is sophomore tight end Matayo Uiagalelei (6-5, 263), the younger brother of DJ Uiagalelei; he will also play some defensive line.

With Beaux Collins leaving mid-term to Clemson to join his former quarterback, the top receiver back is McDuffie, who in 2019 caught 30 passes for 595 yards and nine TDs before getting hurt near the end of the season. Junior Chedon James, who played some in 2019, also returns.

The running back corps will be led by Rayshon Luke, Michael Hayes and Jabari Bates, all of whom saw action in 2019. A newcomer is sophomore Nygel Osborne.

The defense, led by Simpson, appears stacked. Back are linemen Nathan Burrell (6-2, 285, Jr.) and Jairus Satele (6-1, 292, Jr.). Junior Malachi Finau (6-2, 287), who played some in 2019, is in there. As is newcomer Ieremia Moore (6-4, 270) of New Zealand, who recently signed with Cal.

Senior linebacker Benny Lockhart, who got into six games in 2019, figures to see a bigger role this season.Juniors Tayvion Beasley, Jalen Woods and Jaxon Harley return to the backfield, where Negro says there are a large group of others on whom he will rely. One to watch is junior Sione Hala, a transfer from Paramount.

No, there are no playoffs. But Negro says there will be plenty of fun ahead.

“We’re kind of taking it as six-game playoffs,” he said. “I mean, we start with Sierra Canyon, who is certainly one of the top teams in the state. And then we roll through our league and the culminating event is going to be the Mater Dei game.”

That could be for the Trinity League title.

“We’re very fortunate that they belong in the same league for us, so there’s still a lot to play for,” Negro said. “We want to win a Trinity League title. They’re still going to have hardware for that — a plaque. And that is our goal.”

Simpson can’t wait for Saturday.

“It just feels good,” he said, “because it’s been so long since we last been able to just compete and just for the seniors who stayed here, stayed loyal, it feels good to be able to play.”

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