Zachary Shay made one cut on the dewy grass and a collective cringe soon followed from those at Bishop Amat's Kiefer Stadium. Shay had suffered a nasty ankle sprain on the fifth play from scrimmage, leaving Amat without one of its top playmakers. The Lancers still had enough firepower to defeat Crespi on Oct. 15 last year, but the injury proved to be a downer the rest of the way.
After a 9-0 start to the season, Bishop Amat lost to Alemany in the Serra League title game and fell at home to Tesoro in the first round of the Pac-5 Division playoffs.
Shay, who had seven touchdowns and accumulated 907 total yards before the season-ending injury, is back for his senior season and, if he maintains a clean bill of health, should form a powerful tandem with quarterback Rio Ruiz and tailback Jalen Moore.
Here’s a closer look at the Lancers:
Team: Bishop Amat.
Coach: Steve Hagerty, fourth season.
2010 Record: 9-2, lost in first round of the CIF Southern Section Pac-5 Division playoffs.
Returning starters: 14 total. Seven on offense, seven on defense.
Key players on offense: QB Rio Ruiz (USC baseball commit), RB Jalen Moore, RB Zachary Shay, WR Joseph Cook
Key players on defense: DB Rio Ruiz, DB Ajee Montes, DB Adam Alcantara, LB Jalen Moore
Difference maker: Ruiz, a top baseball prospect who will miss three nonleague games while he plays for the U.S. youth national team, is arguably the best quarterback in the San Gabriel Valley. He's expected to build off the 19 touchdowns and 2,000 yards he threw for last season. Moore, who rushed for 1,634 yards and 23 touchdowns as a junior, will have to carry a heavier load during Ruiz's absence.
Newcomers: To be determined, according to Hagerty.
Not to be missed: vs. Alemany, Friday, Oct. 14. This matchup will likely decide the Serra League, and Bishop Amat doesn't want a repeat of last year's disheartening 38-30 loss in the final week. The Lancers pretty much have the same team coming back, so you figure players will be mentally prepared.
Coach’s comment: "I think we do a good job as a staff of evaluating things day to day and that's what we'll continue to do," Hagerty said. "I know newspaper guys don't like that. You want predictions and all that stuff, but I know we'll be fine. Our kids play hard, are aggressive and are going to be physical. We're going to have a shot to win every game we play this year, with or without Rio."
Final analysis: The Lancers return major contributors from an offense that averaged 35 points per game last season. Barring any injuries, expect something in the same neighborhood from this group. Amat's overall success, though, appears to hinge on defensive improvement and minor contributions from role players. The Lancers have the potential to duplicate last year's No. 4 seeding in the Pac-5 Division bracket, but it's expected that they actually advance out of the first round this season.
Blair Angulo covers preps for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow him on Twitter.