Being the team to beat in the Tri-City Athletic League doesn’t make St. Mary’s football nervous. The Rams haven’t lost a league game since 2013, a brutal 40-32 loss to Stagg on Nov. 1, 2013. Having a target on their back doesn’t make coach Tony Frank sweat in his 20th year as the head coach.
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“We aren’t focused on things that we can’t control like what our opponents do — or like the weather,” Frank said. “I worry about whether we’re gonna have enough footballs for practice. I just worry about everything being in place for us each day to just turn the crank and engage in our process.”
The process for Frank and his team a couple of days into padded practice involves rounds of drills for each power position with a coach leading them. The Rams are filled with staff some of whom are alumni, who are familiar with the school’s football program. Every practice begins with a player-lead prayer, just a tip of the spiritual rituals they will do throughout the season.
Along with having the freedom to practice religion with his players, Franks notes that having this many people on his staff is what helps them stand out in the T-CAL.
“’I’ve been around for a while but so has our staff, we’ve been together for a long time,’ he said. “You can’t run a successful high school program or any football program — It just requires so many good, dedicated people.”
Some of the St. Mary’s coaching staff that has been around through its domination in league play over the years are assistant head coach and offensive coordinator Doug Carruesco, running backs coach Harry Brown, Adam Pile the wide receivers coach, and JD Willis the offensive line coach.
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The Rams staff will play a big role this season as the roster is on the younger side with mainly juniors, sophomores and a couple of freshmen. Senior wide receiver and safety Naseri Danielson got his varsity debut as a sophomore and sees the staff as a vital part of his development.
“It’s not just football for them, you know we’re here 12 hours a day during the season but you never feel like you want to go home because it’s like you’re home here,” he said. “All the coaches they’re players’ coaches, they’re there for the players so it’s really fun.”
As one of the few seniors on the team, Danielson will look to not only be the go-to receiver for St. Mary’s but also to take a leadership role to help guide his younger teammates. During the off-season, the team was able to bond throughout weightlifting and seven-on-seven tournaments.
Star junior running back Asante Carter, who also was a sophomore on varsity, already feels more comfortable with his team.
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“We hang out all the time so we kept the connection over the offseason,” Carter said. “And then when we came back to practice, we still got that same connection.”
Through St. Mary’s connection, the discipline and structure created by the coaching staff, and their rituals, it will remain the team everybody wants to beat in the T-CAL. Similar to their coach, Danielson and Carter aren’t worried about upholding the legacy of being undefeated in the league. Instead, the Rams want to soak up as much of the thrill that Friday nights will bring in just less than three weeks with their first game on Aug. 26 against West.
“It goes by so fast, it’s over like that before you know it, so I think as a team we’re always excited and we’re always just ready to play,” Danielson said.
Record reporter Shannon Belt covers sports. She can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @ShannonBelt3. Support local news, subscribe to The Stockton Record at https://www.recordnet.com/subscribenow.