Sacred Heart getting Irish up for WCAL in 08

The San Francisco school from Cathedral Hill is coming off back-to-back years in which its freshman, junior varsity and varsity football teams all had winning records for the first time in school history.

Sacred Heart Cathedral Prep's return to the West Catholic Athletic League is on schedule, football coach John Lee said.


The San Francisco school from Cathedral Hill is coming off back-to-back years in which its freshman, junior varsity and varsity teams all had winning records for the first time in school history.


Included was a 15-5 record by the varsity over the past two years.


"Things are going excellent," said Lee, who quarterbacked the Fighting Irish in 1983.


"We had sign-ups last week and 108 signed up for junior varsity and varsity. So the numbers are up."


There is some talent, as well. Rising junior running back Desarte Yarnway, who will be a senior when the Irish re-join the WCAL in 2008, rushed for 1,368 yards last season for the 6-4 Irish and scored 18 touchdowns.


Another player to watch is rising junior linebacker Michael Morello (6-1, 215).


The Irish joined the WCAL in 1970, transferring from the public-school dominated Academic Athletic Association. But two decades later Sacred Heart was getting beaten soundly by WCAL foes in football and the school made the decision to vacate the league following the 1989 season (it remains there in other sports).


Since then the Irish have been relegated to the obscurity of an independent schedule.


But Lee, who's brother Frank formerly coached the Irish, took over three years ago with a plan to return the Irish to glory. So far he's done an admirable job.


Last season Sacred Heart defeated San Francisco rival Archbishop Riordan

8-7 and lost 24-7 to San Francisco St. Ignatius, which was co-champions of the WCAL with San Mateo Serra.


Sacred Heart and St. Ignatius have the third-oldest prep football rivalry west of the Mississippi, having first played a rugby game on St. Patrick's Day of 1891 at Central Park on Eighth and Market streets. On that day Rev.


Cornelius P. Kennedy coached the Irish to a 14-4 victory against the Wildcats.


St. Ignatius leads the overall rivalry, though, 41-12-5.


Soon, Sacred Heart intends to play for more than just bragging rights.


In 2007, the Irish will add WCAL power San Jose Valley Christian to its independent schedule.


Besides its win against Riordan last season, the Irish also had impressive victories against Salesian 24-7 and Eagle Point, Ore. 49-39. It also lost a tough one to Sonoma Valley, 28-27.


Lee was delighted with the support of the Sacred Heart community heading into the Eagle Point game. The Irish junior varsity and varsity both traveled to the game, invading Southern Oregon with about 200 people.


"We took the junior varsity because we didn't want to leave our younger brothers behind," Lee said. "We also had a bus for the parents and it was just a great experience."


Enthusiasm remains high for football at the venerable City school (founded in 1852). Last year 142 played on one of the three teams (25 percent of the boys on campus). But there are obstacles.


Sacred Heart, located virtually in downtown San Francisco, has just a patch of grass 35 yards wide and 75 yards long on its campus. So the three teams alternate in practicing at any of three locations: The Presidio, Fort Scott near the Golden Gate Bridge and Crocker-Amazon Park in the Excelsior District.


Only seniors are allowed to drive to practice, with freshmen and junior varsity players being bussed.


Then there's the football program's independent status. Going 9-1 or 6-4 is great, but it leaves a hollow feeling come December when the likes of St.

Ignatius and Serra are deep in the playoffs and Sacred Heart is putting away its gear.


At the moment there are no key league showdowns for the Irish and no all-league teams to make.


All of that will change in 2008 and Lee said the school is gearing up. It has solidified its coaching staff in the past few years, led by Lee who is in his 20th year of coaching, including 17 at Sacred Heart.


The school has what Lee describes as a "phenomenal" strength and conditioning coach in Colin Peuse. There are also plans to expand the school's weight room.


And during the summer the Sacred Heart campus is a maelstrom of activity, with football camps and other activities to teach youngsters and get them used to being on the SH campus.


"Our No. 1 objective is academics," Lee said. "Last year, out of 49 varsity players, 40 of them made the honor roll. We are getting a wider range of student-athletes now and I'm very excited about our future."



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