SBLive California is previewing the Top 50 high school football teams in the state ahead of the 2020-2021 season. Even with the season on hold, we will continue to highlight the best teams, players and coaches in California. Here’s an inside look at the Servite Friars of the CIF Southern Section, the No. 6 team in our countdown.
SERVITE HEAD COACH
Troy Thomas (11th season)
- Was previously head coach at Crespi for nine seasons
2019 AT A GLANCE
- 7-4 record
- 3-2 in Trinity League (3rd)
- Lost in the quarterfinals of the Southern Section Division 1 playoffs 38-35 to Mission Viejo
ALL-SOUTHERN SECTION DEPARTURES
- Nicholas Martinez – OL (Kansas)
- Feb 12, 2021 vs. Orange Lutheran – 7:00PM – League
- Feb 19, 2021 @ St. John Bosco – 7:00PM – League
- Feb 26, 2021 vs. Mater Dei – 7:00PM – League
- Mar 5, 2021 @ JSerra – 7:00PM – League
- Mar 12, 2021 @ Santa Margarita – 7:00PM – League
- 7 on offense
- 6 on defense
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Noah Fifita (Junior-QB) (5-10, 175)
Offer sheet: Cal, Fresno State, Idaho State, Hawaii and New Mexico
Coach Thomas: “What makes Noah different from everyone else is his football IQ. He throws a super catchable ball and has great accuracy. He’s improved his ability to run the ball in the offseason and we’re definitely looking for him to use that when we play. That will make him even more difficult to defend.”
2019 stats: Completed 193 of 315 passes for 2,892 yards, 61% completion percentage, 37 TD passes, four interceptions. Also rushed for two scores.
Tetairoa McMillan (Junior-WR/DB) (6-3, 185)
Offer sheet: 22 offers
Coach Thomas: “Our new offensive coordinator Sean Koelle has worked with some great receivers like Tyler Vaughns and he believes Tetairoa will get a lot of balls because defenses will have to respect our run game. That could get him isolated more often. Tetairoa is a tremendous athlete and he’s going to play some defense for us too. He’s so smart. I coach him once on what to do in the secondary and he just picks it up.”
2019 stats: Caught 65 passes for 851 yards and 12 TDs
Keyan Burnett (Junior-TE) (6-5, 215) (JSerra transfer)
Coach Thomas: “In our new offense we’ll be using tight ends. Keyan is going to have a huge impact. He can run, he can catch and he’s big, but what I’ve been most impressed with is his physicality. I really like how he blocks. He’s a true tight end.”
2019 stats: 22 catches for 314 yards and two TDs
Shancco Matautia (Senior-LT) (6-3, 320) (New Mexico signee)
Coach Thomas: “Shancco was good last year and he has still improved tremendously in the offseason. I think if we had played this year then he’d be a Pac-12 player. New Mexico got a steal. He’s come a long way. He’s a dominating player in practice.”
Jacob Manu (Junior-LB) (5-11, 210)
Coach Thomas: “As a sophomore, Jacob played really well, but I think now he’s playing differently because he knows he belongs. He’s a dominating player in practice. He’s super physical and very athletic. He can cover slot receivers too. He’s special and not a lot of people know what he’s capable of.”
2019 stats: Made 47 tackles, three for loss
Mason Graham (Junior-DL/OL) (6-4, 280)
Offer sheet: Fresno State
Coach Thomas: “Mason is really athletic. He came in as a linebacker and he’s gotten a lot better, but he still runs like a linebacker. He’ll be a two way guy for us on the offensive line too.”
2019 stats: 34 tackles, three for loss
Maxx Silao (Junior-DL/LB) (6-1, 260)
Coach Thomas: “Maxx was an All-League player for us last year. He’s gotten bigger in the offseason. He played well for us last year and he should make a jump this year.”
2019 stats: Made 31 tackles, seven for loss and had three sacks
Noah Avinger (Senior CB/WR) (5-11, 165) (SDSU signee)
Coach Thomas: “Schools from all over the place were really interested in Noah. He’s a special player. Noah is one of the hardest working kids in our program and nothing has changed since he signed. When we’re doing our conditioning he’s out front. He’s at every workout whether it’s in person or on Zoom. I think Noah has a real shot because of his athleticism, character and work ethic. He’s also very smart too. He’s got a bright future.”
2019 stats: Eight catches for 169 yards and two TDs. Made 39 tackles on defense, had four INTs
Deville Fata (Senior RB/WR/DB) (5-9, 170)
Coach Thomas: “Deville is flashing all over the place. He’s always had a lot of ability and now he has more confidence. He’s probably our fastest kid, so he plays all over the place. He shows up every day and does something good. He’s had a great last six weeks and you can see his confidence growing daily. I just hope he gets to play because he’s a senior. He’s a kid where if he gets some senior film, people will get excited about him and he could get an opportunity at the next level.”
2019 stats: 21 carries for 103 yards and three TDs. Three receptions and four tackles on defense.
- Keyan Burnett— 2022 TE (JSerra)
HOW COVID-19 HAS AFFECTED SERVITE FOOTBALL
COVID-19 has affected every high school football team differently. Coach Thomas shares how COVID-19 has impacted Servite football over the past several months:
“We’ve had some extra time with these guys and they’ve been able to develop longer. It’s been really good for a lot of the younger players, but I do see some of these older guys that have needed time and they’ve gotten better too. It’s not that we’re practicing more, it’s that we’ve spent a longer time practicing. We only practice twice a week, but week after week, after week, after week, that time adds up. It’s been great to see those guys develop.”
“I have been coaching the freshman and JV guys twice a week too and I think it’s been great for their development. I’m spending a lot more time with them. That will help those guys in the future. Football IQ is something that just makes such a difference and this is helping with that and has definitely benefited the program.”
“Servite has been so great to help us do this all safely and I think that’s been huge for the mental health of our kids. I can see it. They all want to be there because it’s a source of normalcy for them and I think it’s been fun. Even though there are no games, we’re still having fun. It’s crazy how long we’ve practiced without having a game and the kids are still showing up with a great attitude. I’m thankful for the opportunity Servite has provided us as a program.”
“We have had some kids do some club stuff and that happened very early on. Like the first time through, we had some kids do it. I wouldn’t deny any parent from making the decision that they feel is best for their kid. I’m not going to get involved personally in the club space. For me, I’m the coach at Servite and I’m going to coach the Servite kids at Servite.
WILL TRINITY LEAGUE PLAY?
“I’ve been involved in a lot of meetings with the Trinity League coaches,” said coach Thomas. “If down the line the Trinity League puts together something where we could all play each other, if our principals and presidents decide that that is something we could do, then we’ll do that.
“We’re holding out hope that at a minimum, the Trinity League could play five games. We still feel like there is a chance for us to play each other. We’re hoping for more and we’ve even talked about playing each other twice if no one else can play or doing a Trinity League playoff. We have a plan, it’s just a matter of whether we’ll be able to execute that plan.”
“There are kids playing club football from our schools, I know that. We’re all in the same situation. We’re not going to deny a parent’s right to make a decision for what they feel like is right for their kid. My son is a junior and I’m choosing as a dad for him not to play. I feel like he’s getting enough development at school and he’ll get exposure when we do get to play, but I know that my decision isn’t the same as other parents. Everyone gets to make their own choice.”
BEST-CASE SCENARIO FOR SERVITE
The best-case scenario for Servite this season is winning a Division 1 championship in the Southern Section. The Friars return a lot of talent from last year’s team and with Mater Dei and St. John Bosco dropping off slightly, the door is open for Servite to win the Trinity League and contend for a Division 1 championship.
MOST REALISTIC SCENARIO
If a season is played, Servite should compete for a Trinity League title.
“We’re much more physical than we were last year. On offense, we were a little bit more finesse last year. That’s probably the biggest difference that people would see in our team from this year to last year.”
“We have more experience this year, which is huge. Last year we were really young. We had a lot of sophomores. Now a lot of those guys are more confident and have more experience. Young guys don’t know what this level is like until they go through it and that gave those kids something. You can see it in practice. They believe that they belong. Confidence goes a long way, especially in high school.”
— Head Coach Troy Thomas