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It's St. Francis High football's Ty Gangi's time to shine

Ty Gangi’s story is one of timing.

To hear St. Francis Coach Jim Bonds tell it, Gangi’s ability to let a pass fly before his receiver has yet to break open is way ahead of the curve.

“His timing is so far advanced in releasing the ball before his receivers are open. Ty has the confidence in the receivers and himself to know they’re going to get open before it happens,” Bonds says. “He’s really advanced in his decision-making and his release of the ball.”

But Gangi had to wait for his hour to come, patiently biding his time as a back-up in his junior season.

Now as a senior quarterback for St. Francis, the 2013 season has become Gangi’s time to shine.

“Everything was kinda lining up that [I thought], ‘Hey, he’s gonna be pretty good,’” Bonds says. “Having thought that, he’s a lot better than even I thought he was going to be.”

The Gangi-led Golden Knights (9-2) are now amidst one of the program’s most successful seasons, as they will host fourth-seeded Camarillo (10-1) on Friday night in the CIF Southern Section Western Division quarterfinals.

“I’ve always believed in us,” Gangi says. “We might not have all the best athletes, but we have the most heart, the most toughness and the most love for the game.”

Leading the way has been Gangi in more ways than one.

His numbers jump off the page. He’s thrown for 2,485 yards and 23 touchdowns to just five interceptions, completing 164 passes in 290 attempts for a 57% clip. His productivity hasn’t come just with his right arm, as his legs have churned out 307 yards rushing and 10 touchdowns in 94 carries.

But Gangi’s success and the Golden Knights’ subsequent rise is more than gaudy numbers.

“He’s the best leader you can ask for for a quarterback,” senior running back Joe Mudie says. “He’s so poised, he doesn’t get frustrated when somebody messes up or he messes up. He’s calm and he’s very smart; he knows what’s going on out there. ... All those things come together and you have a great leader and a great quarterback.”

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Gangi’s time at St. Francis began as a reserve quarterback just as his junior season did.

Senior Matt Gonzalez is now one of Gangi’s receivers, but during their freshman campaign in 2010, Gonzalez was the starting quarterback for the freshman squad. But an injury to Gonzalez gave Gangi his shot and his time to show what he had.

“They put Ty in in the third game and never looked back,” senior center Trevor Provencio says.

During Gangi’s freshman and junior varsity seasons, the Golden Knights went a combined 16-4. But when Gangi rose to the varsity ranks as a junior, Jared Lebowitz was already there as the incumbent starter.

Lebowitz, now at UNLV, would go on to be voted the 2012 All-Area Football Player of the Year, throwing for 2,598 yards and 23 touchdowns in 11 games.

“That was pretty tough for him,” says senior defensive back Kevin Maloof, one of the team’s captains along with Gangi, Mudie and Provencio. “I have the utmost respect for him for sticking it out. He knew he had the ability and he knew he could start and he wanted to show it.”

Biding his time and waiting in the wings, Gangi saw action in just three games as a junior, throwing only 12 passes with six of them completions.

“It’s obviously tough being a back-up,” Gangi says. “I just had to take advantage of every opportunity. I took a bunch of mental reps.

“It makes it even better to be on the field now.”

It took little time on the field for Gangi to prove himself this season.

In the season opener against Chino, he was 14 for 20 for 220 yards and three touchdowns to no interceptions. He was off and running and so were the Golden Knights.

For the first time since 1999, St. Francis began a season at 8-0. It would end the regular season at 8-2 — the same mark the Golden Knights freshman and junior varsity squads posted when Gangi was the signal-caller.

Along the way, Gangi has dazzled against top flight competition.

“When the competition rises, then your play has to rise,” Gangi says. “It’s just preparing week in and week out.”

In a 48-14 shellacking of Monrovia in the fifth week, he posted an eye-popping seven touchdowns, displaying his versatility and then some to the tune of four passing touchdowns, two rushing scores and a touchdown reception.

In the Golden Knights’ losses to top-seeded Gardena Serra and second-seeded Chaminade, Gangi was perhaps most impressive against St. Francis’ most impressive opposition.

Against Serra, he threw for 312 yards and a touchdown and added a score on the ground. A week later against Chaminade, he threw for a career-high 386 yards to go with three touchdowns and another rushing.

“A lot of the team and coaches thought those were two of his best games of the season,” Mudie says. “That’s just him stepping up. That’s just who he is, he just steps up in pressure situations.”

He’s had at least one touchdown pass in every game of the season, piloting a St. Francis offense that is averaging 42 points a game.

Of course it didn’t happen overnight. In the offseason, Gangi hit the weight room with vigor and took on practices with added incentive as his shot at starting was his for the taking.

“I think time has served him well, it’s let his body catch up to his mind. He’s always had it between the ears,” Bonds says. “He can make all the throws that we ask him to make. [His arm strength has] really improved from his junior year to his senior year and I attribute that to his hard work in the weight room.”

Along the way, he’s also surprised plenty of defenses with his running ability. He’s been able to break long gains scrambling, sneaked for crucial first downs and touchdowns and added an element with designed carries.

“When he does decide to tuck it and go, he does surprise a lot of defenders with how quick he is,” Bonds says. “He’s an excellent runner.”

Much as Gangi has kept opposing defenses on their toes with his accuracy short, his ability to throw long and his prowess running the ball, the St. Francis offense as a whole has been dangerously balanced.

Mudie has rushed for more than 1,000 yards and is a huge threat catching the ball out of the backfield, tight end John Carroll has continued the standout play that made him an All-Area pick a season ago and receiver Dylan Crawford is closing in on 1,000 yards receiving.

“It’s so much fun and I love it,” says Gangi of quarterbacking the Golden Knights’ high-octane offense. “That’s how it should be, that’s why we play football is to have fun.”

Of course it all hasn’t been fun. In addition to coming up on the losing end against Serra and Chaminade, Gangi was also on the wrong end of some savage hits, some of them being the 14 sacks he was dealt in the two-game span. So, while Gangi showed in those contests just how well he could play against the best of the best, he also showcased his toughness.

“He’s taken some really big hits and he’s bounced right back up,” Maloof says. “He’s just a hard-nosed guy.”

As Gangi sees it, it’s just part of being a quarterback.

“It’s part of the of the sport and part of the position,” Gangi says. “You’re gonna get hit and you just have to accept it. Hopefully it’s for a good cause.”

As his teammates see it, it’s just a part of who Gangi is.

“It’s always been easy to block for him because he has such high character. He’s just a team player,” Provencio says. “I have a huge amount of respect for Ty and the way he plays the game.”

Whether it’s with his release, when he decides to tuck the ball and take off or that he patiently waited for his time to take the St. Francis reins, Gangi’s timing has been ideal for the Golden Knights.

But his time has been limited.

Bonds, a former quarterback at UCLA, does admit that he’s worried that in the days of early NCAA commitments, Gangi might be overlooked by prospective colleges after just one season starting at quarterback. Having sent myriad quarterbacks to the next level such as Lebowitz, John Sciarra (UCLA/Wagner College), Luke Collis (Nevada/Occidental) and many more, Bonds is confident Gangi will have his time on Saturdays, though.

“I think he can play at the next level,” Bonds says. “Whoever signs this kid is getting somebody I believe can play.”

For now though, Gangi’s efforts are focused on his time at St. Francis and his time is most assuredly now.

“It’s always been my dream to play in college,” Gangi says. “But I’m not trying to focus on that right now. I’m just trying to focus on this season.

For three seasons, Gangi has worked toward his time as the Golden Knights’ quarterback. Now, with him under center, St. Francis is a victory away from returning to the semifinals for the first time since 2005.

Indeed, Gangi has become the right quarterback for the Golden Knights at the right time.

“I didn’t think of it as much as pressure,” says Gangi of having just one varsity season to show his skills. “I think of it as an opportunity, just knowing I’ve got to have fun, because this is my year.”

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