SBLive is previewing the Top 50 high school football teams in California ahead of the 2022 season. Here’s an inside look at the Serra Cavaliers of the CIF Southern Section, the No. 11 team in our countdown.
- 24th season as Serra head coach
- Overall record: 201-75-1
2021-22 AT A GLANCE
- Overall record: 11-4
- League record: 3-1 (3rd in Mission League)
- Defeated Chaminade, Foothill, Etiwanda, and Apple Valley to win CIFSS Division 3 championship
- Defeated Long Beach Poly and Liberty (Bakersfield) to win CIF 1-A State championship
- Aug. 19 @ Orange Lutheran
- Aug. 26 @ Long Beach Poly
- Sep. 2 vs. Cathedral
- Sep. 9 vs. Warren
- Sep. 16 @ Oaks Christian
- Sep. 30 @ Notre Dame (Sherman Oaks)
- Oct. 7 vs. Bishop Amat
- Oct. 14 vs. Sierra Canyon
- Oct. 21 @ Alemany
- Oct. 28 @ Chaminade
- QB Maalik Murphy – Mission League co-Offensive Player of the Year
- WR/RB Troy TW Crozier – 1st Team All-Mission League
- LB/DE D'Angelo Davis – 1st Team All-Mission League
- WR Matthew Coleman
- WR Darrian Anderson
- LB Melvin Bailey
- DB Lamont Shamburger
- LB Jeramie Jones
- OL Marion Miller
PLAYERS TO WATCH
CB/ATH Rodrick Pleasant – SR.
A 4-star prospect with some 30 offers, Pleasant had himself quite a junior year. Despite dealing with an ankle injury all season, he helped the Cavaliers win a state title, then set a California 100m track record of 10.14 (wind-legal) in the Southern Section Masters Meet, and proceeded to win state gold medals in both the 100m and 200m. Pleasant was named SBLive's Southern Section Athlete of the Year.
Without injuries, look for Pleasant to take another leap on the football field, not only at corner but also returning kicks/punts and in some rotation minutes at receiver.
LB Tanu Sosa – JR.
Sosa racked up 138 tackles, 16 tackles for loss, six sacks, and four pass break-ups as a sophomore. He was named First Team All-Mission League.
CB Dakoda Fields – JR.
Per 247Sports, Fields is a 4-star prospect and top-10 corner in the Class of 2024 with 17 offers. He registered 57 tackles, two picks, two forced fumbles, and eight PBUs last season.
DL/OL Jaggar Tavai – SR.
Tavai totaled 55 tackles, five TFLs, 1.5 sacks, and two forced fumbles last season. He made First Team All-Mission League and will also play a limited amount of O-line this year.
RB Cincere Rhaney – JR.
Serra's top returning offensive weapon, Rhaney led the team in rushing with 1,054 yards and 12 TDs on 7.8 yards per carry. The 3-star recruit also caught for 173 yards and a touchdown, and spends occasional time at LB.
Coach Altenberg: "Both our running backs are outstanding and give us a lot of flexibility. Cincere is a really good route-runner. He's a sneaky-good passing game threat."
RB/K/P Kai Honda – SR.
Honda was another key contributor at RB and SB last season, and a high-caliber punter/kicker. He had 1,152 total yards of offense, averaged 34.9 yards per punt with 13 punts inside the 20, and kicked 41 PATs and nine field goals.
Coach Altenberg: "Kai is so versatile and will do anything. He's a running back, but he can play in the slot and he can go wide."
DB/QB Jason Mitchell – JR.
A 4-star ATH prospect with 15 offers primarily as a DB, Mitchell is Serra's likely starting QB this season out of a three-man field. He totaled 41 tackles, seven pass break-ups, and an interception last season.
Coach Altenberg: "If Jason is our starting quarterback it would be hard to play him a lot at DB, but I don't want to lose a star DB. We'll try to figure out a balance. Maybe he can play some defense if one of the sophomores is ready, and possibly go both ways without having to play too much of both."
LB Noa Keohulao – JR.
Keohulao racked up 77 tackles, 16 TFLs, 4.5 sacks, and a pick-six last season at OLB.
S Tre' Harrison – SO.
As just a freshman, Harrison delivered dagger interceptions for the Cavaliers in both the state semifinals and finals. He totaled 53 tackles and three picks.
DE Frederick Williams III – SR.
Williams is a 6-5, 240-pound 3-star prospect who's set to break out in a big way as a senior.
TE Brad Kakazu – SR.
Kakazu missed last season with a torn ACL after a strong sophomore season in the spring. He's ready to go and expected to be a standout for the Cavaliers.
DT/OL Christopher Pittman – SR.
Pittman was tied for fourth on the team in both tackles for loss and sacks last season, and will also play some O-line as a senior.
DB Cordell Montgomery – SR.
A versatile safety, Montgomery totaled 29 tackles last season and might be set for a leap as a senior.
Coach Altenberg: "Cordell can play both safety and nickel. He has an offer from UNLV."
OTHER TOP PLAYERS AND BREAKOUT CANDIDATES:
- Junior S Kwante Hampton broke his leg in Serra's season-opener last season, but Altenberg said "he's back and he looks fantastic".
- Sophomores Jimmy Butler and Wyatt McCauley are both in the mix at QB.
- Altenberg is confident in his team's ability to replace his receiving core, with Jamar Bell-Gonzalez, Andre Nickerson Jr., Ty Law, and Marcellous Ryan as names to know.
- DE Robert James was a factor for Culver City as a freshman last season, and is now a Cavalier.
- Serra returns three starting offensive lineman, and has an inbound transfer from Dorsey who could also become a fixture.
It's a long shot, but who's to say the Cavs can't go undefeated this season? Injuries cost them the ability to play their best ball during most of the regular season, but then they went out and won a CIFSS Division 3 championship and Division 1-A State title without even ever getting all the way healthy. With so much talent returning, they could possibly be even better in 2022. And some of the best teams they'll face just graduated more starters than Serra did.
If the Cavaliers were to go 10-0, that would certainly warrant a Division 1 playoff appearance. And making Division 1 probably wouldn't be out of the question even if they dropped a game or two. With that said, if they were to to win seven or eight games and make Division 2, they'd be in excellent shape to pick up where they left off last postseason – at the Southern Section Division 2 and CIF State 1-AA levels.
MOST REALISTIC SCENARIO
In order to be as good as it was last season, let alone have a chance at being better, Serra is tasked with replacing one of the top-ranked QBs in the country and several other key starters.
Serra certainly has the talent to win a Mission League title, but reigning champ Alemany, Bishop Amat, and Chaminade still loom large, and that's before factoring in the enormous addition of Sierra Canyon. Before that, Long Beach Poly and Orange Lutheran will both be revenge-minded in pre-league play, and Warren shut them out last year when Maalik Murphy was injured.
Still, the Cavaliers are built to potentially conquer that level of competition. With such a tough schedule, winning seven or eight games is more likely than winning 10, and would still be impressive. But again: don't put an undefeated run past them.
"I'm all about playing our best football in the end of the year. Last year wasn't the year that we thought we were gonna win it. We had weird parts, injuries everywhere. [One player] concealed a broken leg and played on it for seven games when we didn't even know – that was our team last year, grit like nothing else. I'm real proud of that group.
This is a new team, even with all the returners. We've won [championships] before, but every year is different. You don't always know what's in the DNA of the team. Last year's team was so resilient, and I didn't know for sure they were like that coming into the year. I do like our experience in packed environments and loud games, now guys won't be dealing with it for the first time. We'll take it one challenge at a time, get after it, and see what happens.
We like having a lot of different looks and value multitalented kids. It was a big part of our success last season, and I think it will be again this year.
I think our league is tougher than ever, adding Sierra Canyon, Bishop Amat will be very good, and [all the others] too... our league is just going to be nuts. We practice really hard because we want to play those hard teams.
I also want our kids to play loose, with energy, and enjoy themselves instead of felling like they're in a military situation. We're trying to unlock the potential in players, allowing them to express themselves out there and be their best selves."
--Head coach Scott Altenberg