SAN FRANCISCO, CA – They sold out the 3rd Annual San Francisco Italian Athletic Club High School Awards Banquet last Monday, and it was long before incoming CIF State Executive Director and native San Franciscan Ron Nocetti was named to the post last week, and then decided to make the trek from Sacramento to attend the festivities.
You don’t have to be Italian to be honored by the SFIAC, but if you are its an even better match, and while some adult honorees like Mitch Stephens of Maxpreps and San Francisco Chronicle fame were not, others were, and it was not lost on the veteran prep sports scribe who was a Guest of Honor along with the Lincoln football team that went 13-0 and won a CIF state Division 6-A Bowl Game championship.
“I’m not Italian and I’m not an athlete, but what I am is truly honored,” said an emotional Stephens.
The Steve Mariucci Trophy for the Coaches of the Year went to Lincoln football Coach Phil Ferrigno, and Italian native son, and Sacred Heart Cathedral girls volleyball Coach Margi Beima, whose team went 31-7 and won a CIF Central Coast Section Open Division championship.
Ferrigno spoke for about three minutes and talked about his roots in San Francisco and the support of family and many others.
“It’s an amazing journey I’ve had over the past 20-plus years, and I’ve practiced my craft and had great mentors along the way, Ferrigno told the crowd of 300 at the SFIAC club on Washington Square in the heart of North Beach.
Jovan Baker of Lincoln won the Vince Tringali Football Trophy. The two-way Mustangs star had 24 touchdowns on offense and 58 tackles and four pass interceptions on defense.
“The season truly felt unreal. We thought about it from the beginning of the season and we went out and made it happen,” Baker said and then turned to his mother. “I really owe this to my mom. She’s been with m every single day since I was 10. This one’s for you mom.”
Another recipient that talked about her mother and family was Lincoln 6-1 UC Davis committed junior volleyball players Lana Radakovic who thanked her later father “up in heaven and then turned to her mother who was videoing her at the podium.
“Thank you mom for everything you’ve done for me and my sister so much on your own,” said Radakovic, who along with St. Ignatius football and baseball player Jack Dye was a recipient of the SFIAC Athletes of the Year Trophy.
One of the more compelling acceptances came from Neal Begovich and he did it without notes. The St. Ignatius basketball standout was honored along with St. Ignatius volleyball star Lizzy Fleming with the Angelo “Hank” Luisetti Trophy as the Scholar Athletes of the Year. The late Luisetti was a native of North Beach and one of the greatest basketball players of all time. He talked about how the high school experience had a “profound impact” on him and he also thanked his family and his late father.
“I always knew I wanted to play Division I basketball,” the 6-8 Stanford-bound Begovich said. “But to do it at a high level you have to take care of business in the classroom.
“It’s truly and honor,” Fleming said. “I’m just so grateful for the opportunity St. Ignatius has given me to play volleyball and get a quality education.”
The Kevin Restani Basketball Trophy, named in honor of the late Riordan and USF star, went to Max Fried of University and Talo Li-Uperesa of Sacred Heart Cathedral.
The Stephen Negoesco Soccer Trophy was awarded to Julio Gonzalez of Mission and Lauren Frohan of St. Ignatius.
C.J. Pino of Mission was the recipient of the Joe DiMaggio Baseball Trophy.
The 3-hour plus long festivities ended with the Dante Benedetti Trophy for Lifetime Coaching achievement and the winners were Steve Franceschi and Marc Christensen.
Christensen coached for over 50-years and is now the director of the San Francisco Prep Hall of Fame.
Franceschi, a 1966 Balboa graduate who starred at University of the Pacific and was drafted by the Giants before spending 43 seasons coaching at Sacred Heart Cathedral, where he currently serves as pitching coach, mentioned Nocetti in his acceptance speech because the new CIF boss was one of his players, and his being honored was the reason Nocetti made a last minute decision to come back to his home town after Stephens told him his mentor was being recognized.
“We were sold out but when I got the call yesterday that Ron (Nocetti) wanted to attend I said we would certainly find him a seat,” said event founder, host and SFIAC member Randy Bessolo with a huge grin.
According to Bessolo the event raised 6,000 last year and he’s hoping it will do as well again this year with proceeds once again going to the CIF San Francisco Section/Academic Athletic Association and Dante’s Boys Foundation.
Besides the individual top honored students that received trophies and will have their names inscribed on the awards plaque, there were 14 student-athletes honored as SFIAC Athletes of the Year and nine SFIAC Scholar Athletes of the Year.
SFIAC Athletes of the Year: Miles Amos (Stuart Hall boys basketball), Ella Bhat (Washington girls soccer), Michael Bigler (Riordan wrestling), Skylar Canady (SHC girls volleyball), Je’Lani Clark (Riordan basketball), Max Edelstein (University boys soccer), Maddie Ennis (St. Ignatius girls basketball), Ben Knight (Mission boys basketball), Hannah McCord (Lowell girls soccer), Bryce Monroe (Riordan basketball), Jonathon Newsom (Stuart Hall football, wrestling, baseball), Keyshawn Organs (SHC baseball), Wrenn Robinson (St. Ignatius boys basketball) and Rain Sheh (Urban girls basketball).
SFIAC scholar athletes: Sean Bilter (SI boys soccer), Matt Farruggio (SHC cross country and track and field), Grace Feinberg (University girls basketball), Zach Gross (Wallenberg wrestling), Zach Johnson (Lick-Wilmerding boys basketball), Katelyn Lee (Lowell girls basketball), Oisin McCormack (SHC boys basketball), Charley Moore (University basketball and baseball), Ella Pearl (University field hockey, basketball and lacrosse).