St. Francis High junior Javier Fonseca will handle quarterback duties for the Sharks football team in the fall. (Raul Ebio - The Pajaronian)

St. Francis High football team is back on the gridiron and ready to make another run at what it hopes to be a successful campaign.   

The tricky part is Sharks head coach John Ausman will have just five players on the roster returning with varsity level experience. He knows it’ll take some time, and growing pains, to get the team where it needs to be but this year’s group is slowly starting to fruition.  

“It’s definitely going to be a learning experience but we will not think of it as a weakness, I believe we have enough talent on this team to compete,” Ausman said. 

In 2022, the Sharks finished with an impressive 9-2 overall record and 5-2 in the Pacific Coast Athletic League Cypress Division, finishing as runner-up to league champion Soledad High.

Their season came to an end following a 31-10 loss to Santa Teresa in the Central Coast Section Division IV quarterfinals. 

They also lost a group of key starters from last season’s group including Reece Borrmann, Kyle Dyer, Nethaniel Madrigal-Hernandez, Christian Magaña, Diego Ramirez and Diego Wolfe, who all graduated. 

Ausman will turn to first-year varsity starting quarterback junior Javier Fonseca and senior dual threat Gavin Valencia to help lead them to their first league championship since 2017 when it finished as co-champion alongside Santa Cruz High in the now disbanded Mission Trail Athletic League. 

“Fonseca and Valencia are my guys, they are really going to be a big part of the process this year,” Ausman said. “We will be looking at all our experienced players to help lead this team this season.”

St. Francis got off to a rocky start following a 35-0 loss against Monterey High in non-league action Aug. 25. Ausman knew it was going to be a difficult game to begin the season and everything needed to go right in order to come out victorious.

“We knew it was going to be a tough match up, against a PCAL Gabilan [team] like that you cannot make mistakes and we needed to do the little things correctly and we just couldn’t do that,” he said.

Despite the loss, Ausman—who is in his seventh year at the helm—still felt positive about his players and saw last week’s game as a growing opportunity to learn from. He was in a similar situation just two years ago when the Sharks started the season 0-3 and wound up in the CCS D-V championship game. 

“We are not the same team from last year, we are going to have some growing pains so I think this game was really good for us,” Ausman said. “We learned a lot about ourselves and will learn more on film this week.”

Fonseca and Valencia want to take everything and anything positive from the game to make the team better. 

“Going into Friday’s game we knew it was gonna be a tough game to win but we weren’t going to just roll over and let them win… my teammates are going to be working as hard as possible this upcoming week so that we don’t have that same feeling after the next game,” Fonseca said.

With a big change in this year’s roster, Ausman knows it won’t be the same team and they have lots of work ahead of them. He expects seniors Pedro Ibarra, Markel Parker and Ben Dewig to be key players on both sides of the field. 

“I believe if we do the little things correctly and are on our assignments we will be a competitive team this season,” Ausman said.

St. Francis will compete in the newly reformatted PCAL Mission North Division with the likes of Monte Vista Christian, North Monterey County, Santa Cruz, Scotts Valley, Seaside and Watsonville high schools.

Fonseca said he’s ready to take command of the Sharks and although it is his first year on varsity, he’s used to playing football since he was 5 years old.

“I believe I’m ready to lead our guys,” he said.

Fonseca has some lofty goals in his first year under the center, which includes a trip back to the CCS playoffs and advance as far as possible. 

“I want our team to compete and play every game like it’s our last,” he said. 

Valencia hopes to finish strong in his final season wearing a Sharks uniform, but most importantly he wants to motivate and prepare his teammates so they’ll be ready to go after this year’s group of seniors graduate. 

“I want to inspire the kids younger than me into believing that there’s always time to develop into a more complete football player, but also that these losses we take really do help us learn,” he said.

St. Francis (0-1) will attempt to bounce back against Stevenson School (0-1) in non-league play Saturday at 12:30pm. 

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