After a 3-year hiatus, Jim Dekker ’68 returned as head coach of the varsity baseball team in 1983. The team that year finished 13-10 and included such standouts as Chris Gaggero ’83, who led the league in strikeouts, and Duffy Aceret ’83, who was the team’s leading hitter. Tim Reardon ’86 and Arnie Sambel ’86 were outstanding players three years later. Sambel, according to Dekker, was the best player of that decade, a strong pitcher and outfielder. He earned a four-year scholarship to USF where he still holds many university records. Also, Jun Dasalla ’87 had a great senior year and still holds the record for batting average and the most doubles in the triple-round format. (In 1987 the WCAL went from a double round-robin format to a triple round-robin, meaning that SI played each rival three times.)
The basketball team would win the WCAL title four straight times between 1981 and 1984, culminating in the greatest victory in modern times for any SI hoops team since the school won the state title in 1926.
In 1981, the team earned the nickname the “Cardiac ’Cats” after clawing their way to co-champion status in the WCAL. Seniors Jeff Thilgen, Frank Byrne, Tom Feeney, Rob Mascheroni, Hugh Campbell and Dean Klisura were seasoned veterans, having played varsity the previous year. Joining them were senior Ray Arata and juniors Mike Radonovich, Gino Cerchiai, David Hamilton, Damien Haitsuka, Rob Ennis and Paul Fortier. They led SI to an 11–1 pre-season finish and an 11–1 round-robin finish before beating Bellarmine (57–50). A 39–38 loss to Riordan forced one more game against the Crusaders. SI won that match 64–44 for the league crown before heading to Stanford’s Maples Pavilion for the final two CCS games. There, SI beat Fremont 58–49 and followed with a 54–52 win over Gunn High School for the school’s first CCS crown. Fortier, Thilgen and Mascheroni made the All-Tournament Team for their efforts.
The next year, Bob Drucker and assistant coach Shel Zatkin again led the ’Cats to a WCAL title, with Drucker winning his 300th game along the way by defeating Riordan 54–47. Drucker and Zatkin won again in 1983 after a 9–3 round-robin finish and a 50–44 victory over SH in the playoffs. The team won the first two CCS games but lost 46–45 to Fremont of Sunnyvale for the sectional championship.
In 1984, SI’s starting-five included standouts Levy Middlebrooks, David Wilson, Dan Oyharcabal, Paul La Rocca and Joe Vollert who helped SI to a 10–2 pre-league record. The league games included a triple-overtime cliffhanger against St. Francis that SI won thanks to the inside domination of Middlebrooks. SI lost its final league game to SH to spoil an otherwise undefeated season, but the team had its revenge in the first playoff game against the Irish. It was déjà vu all over again when SI lost to Riordan and then came back to beat the Crusaders for the league crown. In CCS competition, SI beat Milpitas and Cupertino before besting Riordan once again for the sectional title.
At the Oakland Coliseum, SI won the Northern California Championship (formerly named the Tournament of Champions) by beating Rancho Cordova, St. Elizabeth’s and Amador Valley. It was the first TOC win since Rene Herrerias led the Wildcats to that victory 29 years previous. Even though SI fell 65–45 to Long Beach Poly at the Oakland Coliseum on March 17 for the state title, it enjoyed a remarkable run and a phenomenal season to which future teams would aspire but never quite achieve.
The Man Who Helps SI Play by the Numbers
By King Thompson, San Francisco Examiner
(Dr. Robert Jeffrey served as statistician and Sports Information Director for SI between 1969 and 1994. He received the President’s Award in 1986 and continued to serve the school until his death. The following article appeared in 1981 in The San Francisco Examiner.)
The world’s most organized high school sports information director sits hunched in the stands, his black felt pen poised for action over the book of lined binder paper that rests in his lap.
As the referee tosses the basketball in the air for the opening tip-off, the pen begins to squeak across the page, noting such things as who received the tip and whether the team on defense opens with a man-to-man or zone configuration.
For the next 90 minutes or so, Dr. Robert A. Jeffrey, Jr., head of the pathology department at St. Mary’s Hospital, is a man avidly pursuing his chosen avocation. Some men play golf or go fishing; Dr. Jeffrey spends his free time chronicling the exploits of the St. Ignatius High football and basketball teams.
All professional sports franchises have statisticians and publicity men, and almost all universities employ sports information directors. But none of them has anything over Dr. Jeffrey when it comes to detailed information.
You want statistics? Dr. Jeffrey has statistics. Lots of them.
He can tell you the usual stuff — average points per game, field goal percentages, rebounds, and so forth. But he doesn’t stop there.
Besides a roster and list of probable starters for each team, there is a breakdown — non-league, league and totals for the season — of how every SI player rates in 12 separate categories. Not only can Dr. Jeffrey tell you each player’s scoring average or shooting percentage, but also available is such esoterica as how many times a team member has forced a jump ball, how many times he has controlled a tip, how many times he has deflected a pass and how many times he has taken an offensive foul. As if that weren’t enough, there is also a rundown on the opposition players, which Dr. Jeffrey labels “Coach Drucker’s Pocket Guide” to whatever team he happens to be playing. At the bottom of this sheet there is a list entitled, “Pecking Order for Fouls.” It is divided into two categories: “Worst Men to Foul” and “Best Men to Foul.” In an instant, you can tell which opposing players are good free-throw shooters and which are not.
Are these mounds of numbers really valuable in terms of winning and losing games? Drucker doesn’t think there is any question about it.
“I’ll say this much: Our success in athletics can be traced directly to this man’s tireless work,” he said in 1976.
Things haven’t changed in the interim. The Wildcats won the WCAL and CCS Championships and finished 29–5 overall (in 1981).
Reprinted with permission from the San Francisco Examiner.
Though SI failed to win a league championship in the 1980s or 1990s, most athletes from those years would say they played for a winning team. They would point to Ray Calcagno ’64 as the reason why.
Calcagno was a star on SI’s number-one ranked football team as a junior and senior. In 1963, he completed 75 of 117 passes for 1,290 yards and 18 touchdowns, making him the top Northern California high school quarterback for passing percentage. He went to SCU, graduating in 1972 with a degree in business, though his college career was interrupted by a stint in Vietnam, where he served with the Army’s 101st Airborne Division. Upon returning to the U.S., he coached at USF, finished his degree at SCU and then coached at St. Francis High School for seven years alongside his brother, Ron Calcagno ’60.
He led the varsity Wildcats at SI between 1979 and 1986 and then again from 1989 until 1992. He took SI to its first CCS appearance in 1983 after a 7–2–1 record. Selected as a Division I at-large team, SI upset Los Gatos 18–14 led by sophomore quarterback Dan Vaughn who ran for one touchdown and threw a 74-yard touchdown pass to junior tailback Tyrone Taylor. In CCS quarterfinal action against Saratoga, SI lost with 2 seconds remaining after Saratoga scored a field goal to win 10–7.
Another favorite memory for Calcagno was the reopening of Kezar Stadium, which had closed in 1989 for remodeling and opened one year later. SI played the first day game and first night game in that newly remodeled stadium, with the Wildcats walking through the same tunnel trod on by generations of ’49ers.
His best memories, he says, are of the boys he coached and the men he coached with. A resident of Mountain View, he decided to leave SI to avoid the grueling commute. He coached football at Mountain View High School between 1992 and 1996 and still works there teaching PE.
SI competed in crew beginning in 1932 and continuing through the 1940s before the school dropped the sport. In 1979, SI took up crew once again with coach Mark Bruneman ’73 at the helm. More than 200 students came to try out for 17 slots. The team began practicing at Lake Merced, the Oakland Estuary and Lexington Reservoir alongside the SCU crew. In its first years, crew competed as a club sport, sponsored by the Dolphin Club, which provided boats and equipment. Early members included Boat House Captain Pat Bennett, Morgan Petiti, Kevin O’Kelly, Ed Navarrete and Ben Harrison. SI competed against such teams as the Oakland Strokes and the Pacific Rowing Club through the California Junior Rowing Association. Matt Carrado and Greg Bonfiglio, SJ (now president of Jesuit High School in Sacramento), teammates on SCU’s 1982 nationally-ranked lightweight eight shell, began coaching in 1985, leading their boys in 5:30 a.m. practices on the lake. The 1980s proved growth years for the sport, with SI crew rising to state and national prominence in the 1990s.
The varsity swim team stopped competing in 1980 due, in part, to the lack of a nearby pool in which to practice and compete. (The 1979 OceanSIder reported in its October 31, 1979, issue that the league nearly decided not to hold finals as only four teams — Serra, Bellarmine, SI and St. Francis — had teams; of those, SI was the only school that did not have its own pool.) In 1982, the sport picked up again thanks, in large measure, to the late Bill Schuppel ’83. SI’s natatorium was years away, so the squad practiced at Hamilton Pool each Thursday and at facilities closer to team members’ homes. The team proceeded to win the league championship each year between 1984 and 1991, propelled, perhaps, by a name change. The team first called itself the Catfish but “the title was changed because, according to team captain Conor O’Kelly ’85, catfish are ‘low-life fish who suck sludge off the bottom.’” The team changed its name to the Aqualads based on the comic book hero Aquaman. (Aqualad was his trusty young assistant.) “He fit the image we wanted,” said Kelly in a Spring 1985 Genesis II interview.