It is now the fourth year of the era of head coach Jason Gelber at Mary Star Of The Sea High School, and the football team has had enough of the bad luck and circumstances that have haunted them the last couple of years.
The 2016 and 2017 seasons both ended with the Stars finishing 6-4 in the regular season, which is good enough in most years to compete in the CIF-Southern Section playoffs. However, only going 1-2 in the four-school Del Rey League in the lowest division (Division 13) you're put in with 85 schools and no open at-large spots would keep Mary Star from reaching the postseason.
The two schools responsible for the back-to-back postseason absences, powerhouse St. Anthony of Long Beach, and St. Genevieve of Panorama City, are not anywhere on the 2018 schedule, so things could be looking up for the Stars who will look to reach the CIF-SS Division 12 playoffs as the Stars move up a division.
Now in the Camino Real League with St. Monica of Santa Monica, Bishop Montgomery of Torrance and Cantwell Sacred Heart of Montebello, the outlook appears to be in favor Mary Star considering these facts.
In 2017, the Stars ended a 36-year losing streak to Bishop Montgomery on September 22 with a 28-27 road win over the Knights, while also defeating St. Monica in the former Del Rey League. The last time Mary Star faced Cantwell was in 2016 which the Stars dominated in a 41-6 nonleague win at Daniels Field in San Pedro. Cantwell won the South Catholic Football League championship in 2017, a league Bishop Montgomery also competed in.
Despite that, the seven-game nonleague schedule is filled with six new additions along with an October 5 battle with Verbum Dei of Los Angeles at Daniels Field. A September 14 road game at South Torrance seems like the best of the nonleague games for the Stars, and definitely the most attractive from a South Bay area perspective.
Mary Star will be paced by a steady group of players who have bought into the philosophy with the hashtag '#TPW' which stands for 'Tough People Win', and by three key senior skill players in senior quarterback Kevin Costa, senior RB/LB Luke Sabra and senior WR/DB Joe James.
Costa, who along with Sabra competed in several combines over the summer, threw for 683 yards and seven touchdowns opposed to just two interceptions last season in a run-oriented offense, but is capable for more after a strong summer. He’s also a dual threat for the Stars rushing for 230 yards and two touchdowns on 58 carries.
Sabra led the Stars in rushing last season with 670 yards and ten touchdowns on 106 carries, with his biggest run being a 90-yard touchdown run in the victory over Bishop Montgomery. On defense, the three-year varsity letterman registered 34 tackles (10 tackles for loss), two forced fumbles, a fumble recovery and a pair of sacks.
James is the top returning tackler of all in San Pedro, as he made 106 tackles, recovered three fumbles and also intercepted three passes. The two-sport star who also is an all-league performer in baseball, caught seven passes for 125 yards and three touchdowns last year for Mary Star.
Junior WR/DB Isaac Colloca, who garnered six interceptions last season, will also be key for the Stars, who won a linemen's challenge over at Ontario Christian High on July 14. Some of the key names on both sides of the line expected to produce include senior TE/DL Josh Fennessey, junior Matthew Lane, senior OL/DE Billy Romo, and senior C Vincent Tuberosi.
Mary Star also has a pair of junior two-sport athletes on the football team this year who were all-league in other sports in WR/DB Aaron Martinez (basketball) and RB/LB Marco Ibarra (baseball), and will also benefit from three transfers from San Pedro in junior RB/LB Giovanni Rizzo, and junior two-way linemen Chris Amalfitano and Jesse Tello who will all be eligible by the September 28 nonleague home game with Simi Valley at Daniels Field.
Stars open the season on Friday vs. Whittier Christian at Whittier College.