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Servite football injected with confidence after CIF run, vows to ‘stick to who we are’

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In the glow of a historic season and before the loss of several accomplished transfers, Servite football coach Troy Thomas saw a path forward that he embraced.

Thomas, speaking at the Friars’ National Signing Day ceremony last month, said one of the key elements to their run to the CIF-SS Division 1 title game was developing undersized players to compete against Trinity League powerhouses Mater Dei and St. John Bosco.

Yes, Servite featured players with ideal, college-size such as Tetairoa McMillan (Arizona), Mason Graham (Michigan) and Keyan Burnett (Arizona) but it also relied on several undersized players who emerged because of their hard work, intelligence and coaches, Thomas said.

That’s the blueprint of success that he wants Servite to remember.

“For us to accomplish what we did, with who we had, to me, people aren’t talking about it enough,” said  Thomas, whose squad upset St. John Bosco in the semifinals and lost to Mater Dei in the final.

“It is a tribute to Servite, the coaching staff, and these kids. I think they worked really hard during the quarantine. They stayed on Zoom with me, and I pushed them, and they did it. It’s a special group.”

That group, which helped Servite reach its first section final since 2010, has lost some standouts in recent days.

Highly-touted cornerback Emmett Mosley and linebacker Gage Burnett — both sophomores – have transferred to Santa Margarita. Two-way, junior tackle Vaka Hansen and his sophomore brother, Hoi, a running back/linebacker, transferred to Los Alamitos.

There were whispers during the fall about some of the potential movement but Thomas spoke last month of committing to the players who attend Servite and building from there.

“We did see a change in our culture now where our kids believe they can do it,” he said. “The normal kid who comes to Servite, he’s a believer now because he’s seen Houston (Thomas) do it, or Mikey (Welsh) or Wes Taylor. You can be 170 pounds and be a linebacker at Servite.”

“That’s what I feel good about,” Thomas added. “We’ve stuck to who we are as a school and we’re going to stick to it. I think things are changing. I think things are changing in our league, and I believe that Servite is just going to stick to who we are, and in the end … that will be prove to be the right thing.”

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