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California's Top 50 high school football teams: No. 48 Bellarmine rise to yesteryear continues

In third season since Central Coast Section's winningest coach Mike Janda stepped down, the core of Bells' undefeated 2019 freshman team are now seniors and ready to roll.

SBLive is previewing the Top 50 high school football teams in California ahead of the 2022 season. Here’s an inside look at the Bellarmine Bells of the CIF Central Coast Section, the No. 48 team in our countdown.




Jalal Beauchman

  • 3rd season as Bellarmine head coach
  • Overall record at Bellarmine: 10-7
  • CIF CCS champions (before Beauchman): 1981, 1986, 1990, 2008, 2009, 2011, 2015


  • Overall record: 8-4
  • League record: 4-3 (T3 in West Catholic Athletic League)
  • Won CCS D1 playoff game 34-27 over Los Gatos
  • Eliminated by eventual NorCal Open champion Serra, 41-0, in CCS semifinals


(All games are at 7 p.m. unless noted otherwise)

  • Aug. 26 @ Menlo-Atherton
  • Sept. 2 @ McClymonds
  • Sept. 9 @ San Leandro
  • Sept. 23 vs. St. Ignatius
  • Oct. 1 @ Riordan, 2 p.m.
  • Oct. 7 vs. Serra
  • Oct. 14 vs. Mitty
  • Oct. 21 vs. Sacred Heart Cathedral at Kezar
  • Oct. 28 at St. Francis
  • Nov. 4 vs. Valley Christian


  • 4 on offense
  • 5 on defense


Thomas De Vittorio — WR/DB — graduation

Gino Cresci — RB/LB — graduation

Brody Stratz — TE/DL — graduation

David Serrano — OL/DL — graduation

Wade Smith — QB — graduation


RB Ben Pfaff — Sr. — 5-11, 190

2021 stats: WCAL Junior of the Year rushed for 970 yards on 187 carries and 16 touchdowns, plus contributed 13 catches for 124 yards and three more scores. Added seven kickoff returns for 205 yards (29.3 average). Will get running relief from another senior Ivy League prospect Riley Paran (5-10, 185), who is out of same tough, athletic mold.

RB/ST coach Brennan Ronald said: "Amazing junior season. Extremely smart (4.0 GPA) which translates to the field. He's diligent on cuts. He's classic old-school Bellarmine back where it's going to take more than one tackler to bring him down. Not a burner, but he's going to get through the teeth of the defense and once in the second level, he's determined to score. A lot of premier academic schools are after him: Davis. Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. UC San Diego. The Ivy Leagues also."

QB/DB Nate Escalda — Sr. — 6-1, 180

2021 stats: 427 passing yards, 5 TDs, 34 rushes, 229 yards (6.7 ypc), eight total TDs, 40 tackles, five PD, three interceptions.
DC Joe Gigantino III said: "By far Nate is one of the best athletes on the team. He backed up Wade (Smith) last season and besides being a great safety on defense, showed pure athleticism. He was all over the field on defense. Between he and Parker Threatt (6-1, 180) we have two great options at quarterback. He and Nate both have tremendous speed at sub 4.6 in the 40. Those two will duke it out for the starting QB job and each will help tremendously on defense."

LB Brandon Broch — Sr. — 6-1, 185

2021 stats: First-team All-WCAL performer as a junior led the Bells with 126 tackles (12.5 for loss).

Gigantino said: "Our starting Mike LB led the team in tackles and was the heart and soul of our defense. He dominated from day one as a freshman. Has basic football instinct that you can't teach. He takes no false steps. He gets downhill quickly, sheds blockers. He's getting a lot of looks and has the frame to bulk up all the way to 220 in college.

LB Jake Hanson — Sr. — 5-10, 175

2021 stats: Third on 2021 team with 88 tackles (7.3 per game), 12.0 for loss. HM All-WCAL.
Gigantino said: "He's a hybrid 'defender, primarily an outside linebacker who has shined since his freshman season. He's added 10 pounds of muscle."

K/P Jake Raney — Sr. — 6-3, 210

2021 stats: WCAL co-kicker of the year booted 44 of his 67 kickoffs into the end zone last season, while also averaging better than 35 yards per punt. He made 61 extra points and six field goals.

Ronald said: "He's a big-time kicker for sure. Ranked nationally by Chris Sailer (No. 20 punter, No. 63 kicker for Class of 2023). Oregon, USC, Davis all interested in him. Big kid. Strong in all three phases."

OL/DL Bennett Anderson — Jr. — 6-5, 260

2021 stats: 41 tackles, 4.5 for loss.
Gigantino said: "Started at noseguard as a sophomore. Talk about fearless. We've moved him to offensive tackle and we can see him being a next-level player. There's a lot of interest. Big things are coming for him after a really good offseason."

OL Mitch Brown — Sr. — 6-4, 250

Gigantino said: "He'll be a third-year starter at right tackle. Mitch made a huge jump from his sophomore to junior season and after an amazing summer, he's ready for a big senior campaign."

OL/DL Jae'Von Reels — Sr. — 6-1, 280

2021 stats: 46 tackles, 5.0 for loss.
Gigantino said: "Went from 260 to 280 in offseason, all muscle gain. Cardio-wise he looks great and we expect him to be one of the top players on defense in the league. Wouldn't be surprised if he's an FBS kid."

WR Zayne St. Laurent — So. — 6-1, 175

Ronald said: "First time in a very long time we brought up a freshman for the playoffs. He had incredible summer. A three-sport kid (also plays basketball and runs track) who can go up and get the ball. A special talent. A game-changer."

WR/DB Phillip Miller — Sr. — 5-7, 160

2021 stats: 47 tackles, five pass deflections, 12 catches, 17.8 ypc.
Gigantino said: "Not the biggest kid, but a total gamer. We utilized him on both sides of the ball last year and will do again this season. There's not a smarter kid on the football field (4.3 student). He'll be a punt and kickoff returner also."


Every year the Holy War game versus arch-rival St. Francis, pitting arguably the two most successful CCS programs in history, packs a home stadium, this year slated at St. Francis on Oct. 28. But the Lancers have have won the last six straight, including 44-24 at San Jose City College in 2021.

Besides any WCAL game, all three non-league games are intriguing starting with the opener at Menlo-Atherton. But the best should be a first-ever meeting at state and Oakland power McClymonds on Sept. 2.

The Warriors, winners of four state titles, including 54-7 over Birmingham last season in the 3-A title game, are blessed with speed, more speed on top of speed, including Jav'Vion Cole, last season's East Bay Player of the Year selected by the San Francisco Chronicle.

Bellarmine's defense, the strength of its squad, will be challenged in every way to slow down the high-powered Warriors, who scored 640 points in 13 games last season. The Week 2 matchup will also be a grand contrast in styles.



As big a leap as the Bells have made since Beauchman took over in 2020 — Bellarmine was 9-23 from seasons 2017-19 — knocking off St. Francis and league favorite Serra, the NorCal Open representative in 2021 — seems doubtful though not impossible.

Going unbeaten during a very tough nonleague schedule on the road will be a great feather in the cap for Beauchman, Gigantino and Ronald, who all coached the 2019 Bellarmine freshman team that went 9-0.

When legendary coach Mike Janda — the CCS's winningest coach with 286 wins in 36 seasons— stepped down after the 2019 season, the trio of coaches were called up to varsity. All starred on previous Bellarmine squads. Now about 20 players off that 2019 team are seniors and they're used to winning.

Going unscathed during the nonleague, then knocking off the rest of a very rugged WCAL schedule that includes defending state 4-A champion Sacred Heart Cathedral would be a tremendous accomplishment and confidence boost heading into the postseason.



Losing either one of the nonleague games — Menlo-Atherton and San Leandro will also be formidable — or to another WCAL squad other than Serra and St. Francis seems likely. But the Bells are a confident group who have put in the work. With the biggest lines in recent memory to go along with some speedy, durable, smart, experienced skill players, anything is possible.


"We've had a lot of these guys since they were freshmen and the goal is to provide them the best senior experience they can have by preparing them day-by-day for their best chance at success.

"Obviously the quarterback position is very important and we lost a very talented player in Wade Smith. But we have two very good players battling it out for the starting position now. Right now it's up in the air and with these two kids it's a good problem to have.

"We've had a good offseason but it's hard to know how it translates to tackle football. We return a lot of juniors who had a lot of playing time and having that experience is great. The (WCAL) is balanced top to bottom and any team can win on any given night. At the end of the day, whoever makes the fewest mistakes, makes the most plays, receives the most luck will win. We'll see how it shakes out."

-- Jalal Beauchman