Leading into the 2014 high school football season, we’re taking an early look at teams and players to watch this season. This week, we’re looking at Servite (Anaheim), which went 6-6 last season but has a slew of Division I talent returning.
Team: Servite, Anaheim, Calif.
Key returnees: Travis Waller, listed as Rivals.com’s No. 5 dual threat QB, WR Equanimeous St. Brown, who has more than a dozen Div. I offers; OL Clayton Johnston, who leads a dominant offensive line; DB Maurice Davison, who had seven interceptions last season, DB Kameron Dennis; and LB Jack Savage, the son of UCLA baseball coach John Savage.
Key losses: WR Neil Pau’u (signed with BYU).
Top opponents: Nevada 4A champion Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas) on Aug. 29; Sept. 27 vs. state Open Division runner-up De La Salle (Concord); State Open Division champion St. John Bosco (Bellflower) on Oct. 31.
From 2006 to 2011, Servite won Southern California’s vaunted Trinity League every season, but in the last two seasons, the Friars have gone 9-12.
This season, with 13 starters returning and double-digit Division I prospects on the team, Servite again appears ready for the deep end of the Trinity League pool. The cornerstones for the team include explosive quarterback Travis Waller, a huge offensive line anchored by Clayton Johnson and A.J. Carty and a defense with two shutdown corners in Maurice Davison and Kameron Dennis.
“We started to come together at times last year,” said coach A.J. Gass, who was 6-6 in 2013, his first year as the Friars’ head coach. “We saw flashes of what we were able to do. Our big thing was just being more consistent. With so many guys coming back, I think they’ve learned consistency is what leads to wins.”
Servite’s defense is led by the defensive backfield of Davison and Dennis.
“We have two of the best DBs in Southern California,” Gass said. “Being able to know we can cover almost any receiver is a big deal. It allows us to do more against the run as well. Maurice Davison would ask to be put on certain players and Kam Dennis gained confidence throughout the year. He’s to the point where we can put him one-on-one with anybody.”
Waller, who is 6-4 and 195 pounds, threw for 1,669 yards last season and ran for 1,293. The rising senior’s top four schools are Alabama, Notre Dame, Ohio State and Northwestern and he has said he will announce his choice on July 1.
“Having such a dynamic quarterback running the show on offense gives us a lot of confidence,” Gass said. “Last year, we were a 70-30 run team. We used Travis as another running back. This year, we want to get the ball out of Travis’ hands and get it to other players. We want to be more balanced on offense.”
Servite is 9-2 this spring through two passing tournaments, but the Friars’ regular-season schedule will be a difficult test. It opens with Nevada state 4A champion Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas) and includes an early season game with perennial power De La Salle (Concord) before the league schedule, with toughs such as St. John Bosco and Mater Dei (Santa Ana).
“Our preseason is just designed to get us ready for league play,” Gass said. “Our league will prepare us for the playoffs,” Gass said. “Playing teams that we know we’re going to beat is not going to help us out. We look for teams that will match up with talent of the teams we will play in the league. The trick is to make sure we can battle through and stay healthy.”