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His team had just beaten Bellarmine in a playoff game. The final score was decisive. Serra had won 41-0.

But after the semifinal matchup last November, winning coach Patrick Walsh was genuinely complimentary about the direction league rival Bellarmine was headed under Jalal Beauchman.

The Bells coach had just completed his first fall season after starting his coaching career at the storied San Jose private school in the pandemic-shortened spring season earlier in the year.

“Jalal Beauchman and staff are five years ahead of schedule,” Walsh said that afternoon on Serra’s home field. “I am very tight with Jalal and very tight with many guys on the staff. Just being in this league for 21 years, the league is better when Bellarmine’s good. I am very proud of Jalal.”

Nine months later, as fall camp opened Friday across the Central Coast Section, is Bellarmine ready to take that next step? Are the Bells primed to join powerhouses Serra and St. Francis atop the West Catholic Athletic League?

Last season, Bellarmine beat St. Ignatius and Valley Christian but was soundly defeated by Serra (twice) and St. Francis.

“Those guys over they have done an amazing job with their programs,” Beauchman said this week. “Our head isn’t in the sand. We hear a lot about the talent that’s going to those schools. I still think everyone is trying to play catch-up to those guys.”

Even so, Bellarmine has been on an undeniable ascent since Beauchman took over from the highly successful Mike Janda, and its playoff placement last fall amplified the rise.

The Bells were seeded third in the CCS Division I bracket. Given that the section ranks its playoff teams one through 40 and then divides them into groups of eight from the top down, Bellarmine was the third-best team in the section in the eyes of the CCS going into the playoffs.

The seeding provided one of the most electrifying moments of the season as Bellarmine, on the verge of opening-round defeat against Los Gatos, turned the tables when defensive back Thomas Di Vittorio returned an interception 94 yards for a touchdown in the final minute to give the Bells a 34-27 victory.

Di Vittorio has graduated.

But linebacker Brandon Broch — the player who deflected the ball at the line of scrimmage, leading to Di Vittorio’s heroics — is back. So is running back Ben Pfaff.

“The thing about high school football is approximately half of your team leaves each year,” Beauchman said. “While all that success was great, it wasn’t necessarily this team’s success. These guys are going to have to continue the hard work of last year’s team.

“Going back to last year, a lot of those games could have gone either way. We made some plays here and there that got us over the hump. That’s going to be a task for this year’s team to do the same thing because we imagine we’re going to be in a lot of close games as well.”

Bellarmine is clearly having fun while putting in the work. Social media active under Beauchman, the team proudly showed off a few playful photos from a media day it held on the eve of fall camp.

BCP Football Media Day was a huge success ???? Fall Camp starts in 12 hours ???? pic.twitter.com/WktpPua7Vz

— Brennan Ronald (@CoachRonaldBCP) August 5, 2022

On the field, one position battle Beauchman highlighted is quarterback. Last year’s starter Wade Smith graduated, creating a competition between senior Nate Escalada and junior Parker Threatt, both 6-foot-1, 180 pounds.

Escalada passed for 427 yards and five touchdowns last season.

“We have two guys we’re feeling good about,” Beauchman said. “Good problem to have as a coach. Deciding between two guys who are going to work their butts off and going to compete during this fall camp. We’re excited to see how that plays out.”

Three weeks from today, the Bells will open the season on the road against Menlo-Atherton. Then they travel to McClymonds on Sept. 2 and San Leandro on Sept. 9 before opening WCAL play against St. Ignatius on Sept. 23 at San Jose City College.

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“I always say this every year. You feel good about your guys but you’re still kind of unsure because you haven’t played anybody else other than your scout team,” Beauchman added. “Everyone is pretty good against them. It’s going to be how these guys perform in those pressure moments.

“I think it’s going to be very similar to last year as far as our team is concerned. If we’re going to win games, we have to make fewer mistakes. We can’t get too down when things go bad. At the end of the day, it’s going to be close and we have to make some plays at the end.”

Coming next week

The Bay Area News Group’s high school football preview package will start to roll out Monday. If you have not already, please subscribe.

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FIFA 23: Marvel and FUT Heroes collaboration announced

FIFA 23 developer EA Sports is teaming up with comics giant Marvel for new FUT Heroes art.

The company has released art which features various FIFA Ultimate Team (FUT) Heroes including the three new players – Yaya Touré, Park Ji-Sung, and Ricardo Carvalho – dressed in Marvel superhero attire.

1Last year's FUT Heroes promotion.Credit: EA Sports

Last year for FIFA 22, EA Sports released images of certain heroes dressed in original superhero uniforms.

This year, just as rumours suggested, the players will be dressed in official Marvel gear reimagined and designed by the company.

EA also announced that a number of vanity items for FUT would also have Marvel themes, including tifos, balls, and kits.

David Jackson, VP for brand at FIFA, said: “Building on the introduction of FUT Heroes last year, we wanted to intersect the worlds of pop culture and sport.

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“[We did this] by working with Marvel’s world renowned artists and animators, to create the ultimate crossover and generate unique Heroes artwork.”

No official art of what the in-game items will look like is available yet, though some cards have been revealed.

One Marvel FUT Heroes card will be given to everyone who preorders FIFA 23 before August 21.

EA Sports also recently announced that FUT packs would be returning to the popular mode, despite people’s concerns surrounding loot boxes and microtransactions.

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On the decision, a spokesperson for EA Sports said: “It's worth saying that spending is entirely optional in our game, and we do not encourage spending over earning rewards through game play. 

“FUT Packs work in just the same way whether they are paid for or earned, and most players don't spend in game at all. 

“For example, nine out of ten FUT Packs opened in FIFA 22 were earned.”

While FUT packs will remain the same, major changes are coming to FUT in FIFA 23.

Player chemistry has been completely reworked so it should be easier to get your team to work together.

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New items have been introduced, and players can change positions more easily.

You can find out more about the Marvel collaboration on the official website.

Written by Georgina Young on behalf of GLHF.

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