SBLive is previewing the Top 50 high school football teams in California ahead of the fall 2021 season. Here’s an inside look at the St. Mary’s Rams of the CIF Sac Joaquin Section, the No. 42 team in our countdown.
Tony Franks, 25th season as St. Mary’s head coach
2020-2021 SEASON AT A GLANCE
- Overall record: 3-1
- League record: 1-0
All games are at 7:15 p.m. unless noted otherwise.
- Aug. 27 vs. De La Salle
- Sep. 3 vs. Central Catholic
- Sep. 11 @ St. Ignatius – 1 p.m.
- Sep. 17 @ Bishop O’Dowd – 7 p.m.
- Sep. 24 vs. Cardinal Newman
- Oct. 1 @ Tracy
- Oct. 8 vs. Lodi
- Oct. 15 vs. Tokay
- Oct. 22 @ West
- Oct. 29 @ Lincoln (Stockton)
PLAYERS TO WATCH
WR Jadyn Marshall – SR.
Marshall, a 4-star UCLA commit, averaged nearly 125 all-purpose yards per game last season. In just four games, he caught for a team-high 15 receptions to go with 230 yards and a touchdown, had eight carries for 72 yards and a touchdown, and racked up 193 KR yards. He can also play DB at a high level when asked to go both ways.
A 3-sport athlete and major track star, Marshall is also SBLive’s reigning Sac-Joaquin Section Athlete of the Year.
DL Jahzon Jacks – SR.
A 3-star Fresno State commit, Jacks recorded 20 tackles in the spring and draws constant double-teams from opposing O-lines.
WR/TE/LB Naseri Danielson – JR.
After leading the Rams with four touchdowns catches in the spring, Danielson is one of the top candidates in the section to break out at a higher level this fall. He was recently ranked as a 3-star receiver and top-75 prospect in the state by 247Sports after catching for four TDs and over 200 yards in the spring, and can also play tight end. Additionally, St. Mary’s is expecting big things out of Danielson on defense this season at OLB.
C/DT Hayden Jones – SR.
Jones, a 2-star prospect and one of the state’s top centers, will anchor the Rams’ O-line while likely starting on the defensive line as well.
QB Cruz Herrera – SR.
After splitting reps under center every game last season, the Rams are expecting a big senior season from Herrera as their full-time starter. In the spring he threw for four touchdowns and 302 yards on 55.2% completion.
“He’s tough, and not scared to take a hit. In fact, he often wants to deliver the hit,” said Jadyn Marshall of his signal caller. He has a strong arm and can make any pass on the field, on the run or with his feet set. He’s also really fast, one of the fastest kids on the team, one of the hardest workers on the team, a great leader. He picks up his receivers if they make a mistake, or takes ownership if he mistimes his throw.”
WR/RB Jason Calvin – JR.
Calvin only had six carries and four receptions in three games in the spring, but his totals were relatively astounding. He finished with 79 yards and a touchdown rushing, a team-high 241 receiving yards, and three receiving touchdowns, plus four kickoff returns for 87 yards.
S/RB Pauli Mafi – JR.
In three games as a sophomore, Mafi recorded 15 tackles, an interception, two fumble recoveries, and a forced fumble. He’s expected to be one of the anchors of St. Mary’s’ secondary, and potentially an impact player at RB as well.
MLB Devin Harwell – SR.
Harwell made 26 tackles and recovered a fumble in the spring, and also led the team in tackles for loss.
St. Mary’s is also expecting big things out of MLB Andrew Andrade (SR.), DB Jordan Charlot (transfer from Bear Creek – JR.), and Asante Carter (SO.) in their first seasons in the Rams’ core rotation.
The Rams are a legitimate underdog threat to go on a section title run this fall. In the 2019 playoffs, they only lost by one touchdown to Monterey Trail, who would come up just one score short in the Division 1 title game. And this St. Mary’s team has a higher ceiling than it did two seasons ago.
New faces will have to step up, and the Rams have less room for error in terms of injuries than some of the other top CIFSJS contenders. But they were already one of the very best teams in NorCal in the spring, playing De La Salle down to one score and following it up with road wins against Jesuit and Central Catholic, plus a rout of Tracy at home. With some major talent returning, the Sac-Joaquin Section should be on notice.
MOST REALISTIC SCENARIO
St. Mary’s starts with one of the hardest pre-league slates in NorCal, but the Rams will be the favorite in all of those games except against De La Salle. And that rematch of the spring’s season-opener is likely to be one of the state’s most intriguing. Regardless of how many non-league games they win, the Rams will be a major favorite to pull off a Tri City Athletic League title.
Come the playoffs, St. Mary’s would have to topple some major powerhouses in what should be a very strong season for the section’s top contenders. The Rams would possibly have to defeat two of Folsom, Elk Grove, Rocklin, and Monterrey Trail just to make it to the finals, which would be a steep hill to climb. But if all their key cogs are they’re healthy, it’s really not a stretch to say they could compete for a championship.
“We’re focusing on staying healthy and preparing ourselves to play deep into the season. That said, we’re going to take things one week at a time, so I’m just focused on our first goal of upsetting De La Salle. Last season was the closest anyone up here [has come to beating them] in a long time, but I know my team’s not satisfied. We want to accomplish something that hasn’t been accomplished in a while.
“St. Mary’s is known for going against the best every year. If you want to be the best, you have to beat the best, and always be willing to test yourself. Us going against [strong teams in their preseason] will teach us early that we have to prepare ourselves for what’s in front of us every single game. What really matters is who has heart, how do you react to adversity. Little things. I’d describe us as relentless, and we’ll have to be every week.”
“I think we have the fastest receiver corps in the section, and the top wide receiver corps in the state. When you know that you have eyes on you, you have to perform and show the younger guys what it takes. We have too many guys you can’t leave in single-coverage. If you double-team me, my teammates will eat, and I don’t mind that at all.”