St. Anthony
Football St. Anthony

St. Anthony Saints Football Preview

St. Anthony coach Mario Morales’ 2016 team gave Saints fans their best memories since the immediate aftermath of World War II, winning the school’s first CIF-SS football championship since 1948.

Under the CIF-SS’ competitive equity format, teams move up and down in divisions each year based on a record of recent success. St. Anthony’s CIF title came in Division 10, but as they’ve continued to win games (21-7 the last two seasons) they’ve been moving up. Last year they were in Division 9, this year they’re up in Division 7.

To put that jump in perspective, St. Anthony is now below only Poly and Wilson in division in Long Beach. They’d be tied with Millikan as the third highest-placed team in the Moore League were they to make a switch into the league. That’s a mark of high respect for a rising small school program, but also a lot of pressure to put on a team that’s lost some major talent to graduation the last few years as well.

“We’re playing much tougher competition, you can look at that in a negative way,” said Morales. “Or you can say it’s a tribute to the guys that came before that established it. Our guys have pride about maintaining the growth that we’ve had. We’ve had success and we’ve been blessed, so we anticipate being moved up. Our guys like the challenge.”

The Saints are short on experience this year and the program’s numbers have dipped as well, a problem seen all over California but heightened for a coach whose team has moved up three divisions. St. Anthony had 92 players in the program when they made their title run and are at 70 players this year, something Morales said he’s noticed but not worried too much about.

“The players we do have are a little more athletic, we like the guys we’ve got,” he said.”

A lot of the season’s direction will depend on the learning curve of quarterback Nick Billoups, who will start this year as a junior. Billoups is a good-looking six-foot quarterback with a strong arm, and the Saints have Donovan Castillo back in the backfield as a security blanket. If Billoups can work the offense, he’ll be able to put stress on defenses in a number of ways. Receivers like Eamon Pool-Harris and Champ Rodriguez will make his life easier as well

Up front there’s some big guys for the Saints ready to clear the way, including St. Anthony legacy Jake Buksa, who’s excited to continue his family’s tradition in purple and white; Buksa will be one of the top linemen in the Del Rey League, whether he’s at center or defensive tackle. Adrian Magana is another big body for the Saints and is entering his senior year as a four-year starter. Andres Kulju is another key lineman.

“We’re young and inexperienced, it’s all about the first two or three games to see where we’re going,” said Morales.

Harvard-Westlake and St. Genevieve figure to be the top league competition, but local fans will get to see the Saints play big public schools in their nonleague schedule as they travel to Warren and Wilson.

Projected Starting Lineup


QB: Nick Billoups

RB: Donovan Castillo

WR: Champ Rodriguez

WR: Blake Banks

WR: Eamon Pool-Harris

WR: Myles Aguero

OL: Jake Buksa

OL: Andres Kulju

OL: Adrian Magana

OL: Hoi Tua

OL: Turtle Tua

OL: Keali’i Tuufuli


DL: Adrian Magana

DL: Andres Kulju

DL: Devante’ Pollard

DL: Jake Buksa

LB: Jaden Cabs

LB: Justin Wilson

LB: Aude Williams

LB: Cade Ignacio

DB: Myles Aguero

DB: Champ Rodriguez

DB: Jesse DeLeon

DB: Blake Banks

DB: Nick Billoups

St. Anthony Schedule

8/17 @ Valencia

8/24 @ Warren

8/31 vs. Palm Springs

9/7 @ Wilson

9/14 vs. Gahr

9/21 vs. Agoura

9/29 @ Harvard-Westlake*

10/5 @ La Salle*

10/12 vs. St. Genevieve*

10/19 vs. St. Paul

10/26 BYE

*(League Game)

All home games at Clark Field

St. Anthony Football Season Preview 2018

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Mike Guardabascio
An LBC native, Mike Guardabascio has been covering Long Beach sports professionally for 13 years, with his work published in dozens of Southern California magazines and newspapers. He's won numerous awards for his writing as well as the CIF Southern Section’s Champion For Character Award, and is the author of three books about Long Beach history.