By Joe Snyder
Last year, Serra High’s foot- ball program added its fourth CIF-State championship flag after capturing the Division IA crown with a 21-16 win over Bakersfield Liberty on Dec. 11 at Saddleback College in Mission Viejo.
From that squad, 14 starters return and the Cavaliers added one key transfer in an attempt to repeat, possibly in the IAA or the prestigious Open Division.
Serra has 14 starters back but will have to replace quarterback Maalik Murphy, who is now playing for head coach Steve Sarkesian at University of Texas in Austin. Head coach Scott Altenberg feels that he has enough talent which includes junior Jason Mitchell, who is already a four-star recruit by college scouts. Mitchell, though, will have two other sophomore candidates in Jimmy Brown and Wyatt McCauly.
Already well known for the Cavaliers will be their outstanding speed that includes already near world-class sprinter Roderick Pleasant, who already broke the California state record in the 100-meter dash at 10.14 seconds in the CIF-Southern Section Masters Track and Field Championships on May 21 at Moorpark High — seeking to break 10 seconds in the 100 and 20 in the 200 next Spring. Pleasant, though, is a four-star recruit at cornerback but is expected to be one of the top wide receivers, as well. The other wide receiver-cornerback will be Pleasant’s sprinting teammate Dakoda Fields. Both were on Serra’s 4×100-meter relay team that won the Southern Section Division IV and Masters crowns before finishing second in state, behind Fresno Central. Pleasant is, no doubt, expected to be one of the fastest, if not the fastest, prep football players in the United States. The Cavaliers, though, are optimistic of junior Ty Wait, a transfer from Archbishop Mitty High in San Jose.
The running back position, however, will have great experience with the return of senior Kai Honda and junior Cincere Rhaney. Honda is also the kicker.
Serra’s defensive line returns three starting all-Mission Leaguers in Jaggar Tuvai, Chris Pittman and Fred Williams and all have good size. Tuvai and Pittman both weigh 280 pounds and Williams tips the scale at 250 and is 6-feet-5. All are also expected to start on offense as will be tackle Andy Nieves, a 6-foot-4, 280-pound junior. Tayari Hill returns as offensive guard.
Altenberg is pleased with his premiere secondary, led by Pleasant, Fields, defensive back Mitchell, sophomore safety Tre Harrison (Daily Breeze all-South Bay as a freshman in 2021), along with other safeties in senior Cordell Montgomery and Junior Hanten.
“We have a lot of good re- turners, especially on defense,” Altenberg said. “We have great running backs. We have good balance. We need to replace Maalik Murphy.”
Serra, though, will continue to have a rigid non-league and Mission League schedule that includes the addition of Chatsworth Sierra Canyon. The Cavaliers will host the Trailblazers on Oct. 14. The Cavaliers begin their season Friday against Orange Lutheran from the prestigious Trinity League at Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa. The Lancers are coming off a CIF-Southern Section Division II championship with a win over Mission League champion Mission Hills Alemany.
Following that is their big non-league rivalry on Aug. 26 against 2021 Southern Section Division IV Champion Long Beach Poly at Veterans Stadium on the campus of Long Beach City College. Serra, which won the Southern Section Division III crown, defeated the Jackrabbits 21-17 in the Southern California Regional Division IA championship on Dec. 4 in front of a sell-out crowd at Serra. The Cavaliers, then, have back-to-back home games against L.A. Cathedral and Downey Warren on Sept. 2 and 9, in order, before another big non-league contest at Oaks Christian in Westlake Village on Sept. 16. After a week break, Serra opens the Mission League at Notre Dame High in Sherman Oaks on Sept. 30. The Cavaliers, then, have back-to-back home games against La Puente Bishop Amat (Oct. 7) and Sierra Canyon (Oct. 14), before finishing league with road games against Alemany in Mission Hills (Oct. 21) and Chaminade in West Hills (Oct. 28). All games start at 7 p.m.