Galileo running back Yarvell Smith stiff-arms a would-be Mission tackler during AAA title game in 2017. (Robert Schnitzer / Courtesy)

Galileo running back Yarvell Smith stiff-arms a would-be Mission tackler during AAA title game in 2017. (Robert Schnitzer / Courtesy)

PrepFocus: San Francisco prep football preview continues with a look at reigning champion Galileo

The defending CIF San Francisco Champions, Northern California Division 6-A Champions and CIF Division 6-A Champions, Galileo football may have been one of the most unexpected surprises in the entire state during last year’s run, but opponents will certainly be circling the Lions on their calendars this year.

Much like last year’s team, head coach Mark Huynh’s squad comes in all shapes and sizes. With the SFUSD’s open enrollment policy, players come from all over the City, and they come from just about every background imaginable.

A quick scan of the roster gives an idea of just how diverse this group is. The names represent all sorts of heritage, and the variety in size will create all kinds of matchup problems. While 5-foot-3 quarterback Adrian Poot graduated after last year, Galileo still has a handful of diminutive players, including 5-foot-4 wide receiver/defensive back combo Brandon Ho, who is listed at just 100 pounds, and Samir Gebredhin, another WR/DB who checks in at 5-5 and 145 pounds.

Though armed with small, quick receivers, the Lions do have some beef on the line. Joseph Ale carries the distinction of being one of the only freshmen to ever play on a state championship team, and the 6-1, 250-pound sophomore will be key on both sides of the line, checking in at defensive end and offensive tackle. Other returners on the line include Max Miles and Giovani Molina.

Defensively, the team returns its top five tacklers from last year, led by senior middle linebacker Jimmie Edwards. He racked up 139 tackles in 11 games, highlighted by 20 in a win over Lowell. He’ll be joined at linebacker by senior Antonio McBride, who had 75 stops a season ago.

Ronald Fox and 5-foot-10, 210-pound Yarvell Smith are also among the team’s leading tacklers from last year, but it would be easy to overlook their defensive acumen because of all that they’ve done on offense. Perhaps the most impressive thing about Smith and Fox was the way they were able to repeatedly torch opponents, even as their reputations grew.

Smith ran for 1,522 yards on 165 carries, averaging 126.8 yards per game and 9.2 yards per carry, with 21 rushing touchdowns. The 5-foot-9, 145-pound Fox rushed for 654 yards on 52 carries, and scored eight touchdowns on the ground. The pair were also among the team’s leading receivers, combining for 447 receiving yards on 28 receptions.

Teams knew exactly who they needed to stop, but very few challengers were able to hold them in check. Smith’s sophomore year was truly remarkable, headlined by his 203-yard performance in a blowout win over Washington. Even though that game cemented him as the focal point of every opposing film session and gameplan, he still managed to break 100 yards in each of the team’s next four games and ran for 91 in the state championship victory over Vincent Memorial.

Though Smith was kept under the century mark during that state championship game, Fox was a man on a mission. His 146 yards that night were his second-highest output of the year, and he enters his senior campaign as a major weapon. Even if he didn’t have Smith with him in the backfield, he’d be a handful to stop. Put the two together and it’s likely that the Lions will be lighting up the scoreboard yet again.

With all of the returning talent, the only real question is the passing game. Poot, with his small frame and cannon arm, will certainly be missed, and the only player listed at quarterback on the current roster is junior Matthew Tu. Fox did attempt three passes last year, completing one of them, so there’s reason to believe he’ll be taking some snaps under center.

San Francisco teams have often shown a tendency to put the ball in their best player’s hands on every play, regardless of position, so it would be fair to expect that many of Galileo’s snaps could go directly to Smith or Fox. With such a talented offensive line, whoever’s under center should have plenty of time in the backfield, and if the Lions do choose to pass, they’ll have options to throw to. Smith and Fox can make plays from anywhere and big play threat Reese Bickart led the team with 415 receiving yards and seven touchdowns last year, including a 71-yard touchdown reception in the AAA Championship win over Mission.

Having lost the regular season meeting with the Bears before exacting revenge in the title game, this year’s clash between the Galileo and Mission is certainly the highlight of the AAA schedule, and it comes early in league play. They’re set to meet in the second week of AAA play at Galileo’s field on October 5. Galileo’s home opener is also a playoff rematch, with the Lions taking on NorCal championship opponent Rio Vista at home on September 15.GalileoPrep SportsPrepFocusyarvell smith

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