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A whole new St. Francis football

Lebowitz-led Golden Knights dealing with massive graduation turnover as 2012 dawns.

August 29, 2012|By Grant Gordon, grant.gordon@latimes.com
  • The St. Francis varsity football team congregates in the end zone to get fired up at preseason practice.
The St. Francis varsity football team congregates in… (Tim Berger/Staff…)

When Jared Lebowitz transferred to St. Francis High from Vermont ahead of his junior season, he gained a starting spot on a team rife with leadership and experience.

As the season began, Lebowitz and fellow junior Matt Kubly, his center, were the only non-seniors penciled in to start for Golden Knights.

Now, as the 2012 football season beckons, times have most assuredly changed.

"I've definitely got the polar-opposite experience," said Lebowitz, who despite playing quarterback, wasn't thrust in a leadership role, as he was surrounded by seniors with multiple seasons starting. "Everyone knew the system [last year], besides me. Now only a few people know the system coming in."

Indeed, the prevailing storyline for St. Francis leading into its season opener on Friday at home against Arcadia is how the Golden Knights will contend with such a massive turnover caused simply by graduation.

Lebowitz returns after a season in which he was an All-Mission League and All-Area second-team selection who threw for 2,234 yards and 21 touchdowns, aiding mightily in the Golden Knights' ascent to a 9-3 record and a quarterfinal appearance in the CIF Southern Section Western Division playoffs after a third-place finish in the ultra-competitive Mission League. But, Lebowitz, along with Kubly and senior defensive end Cole Ramseyer are the only true returning starters from a season ago, helped a bit by a smattering of starting experience here and there from others.

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Overall, St. Francis is a team that's both young and inexperienced, but it hasn't curtailed any expectations.

"We're gonna be young, but we're gonna play hard," said senior safety Joe Velladao. "We're ready to go and we have something to prove. Just because we lost 20 seniors doesn't mean we're not going to have a successful year and we're gonna play with that chip on our shoulder. People are gonna keep saying this is a rebuilding year and we don't have rebuilding years at St. Francis. This is St. Francis football and we're going to be successful."

Velladao, who started a pair of games at linebacker, and Ramseyer, who started the final 11 games at end are the most experienced of a defensive bunch that boasted the likes of Travis Talianko, Ryan McAleenan, Luke Anderson and Tyler Marona last season, but is, for the most part, getting its first starting experience in St. Francis' trademark 4-3 defense under coordinator Mark Gibbons.

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