Head coach Brandon Farrell said his St. Helena High School football team “stumbled around the league last year.”

The Saints lost four in a row to end the 2017 North Central League I season and failed to make the CIF North Coast Section playoffs.

St. Helena (3-5 overall, 2-5 NCL I) finished in a tie for sixth place and were shut out in their regular-season finale, 25-0 to Clear Lake-Lakeport. They were outscored in their last four games, 104-27.

“We’ve got to re-gain a lot of our league confidence,” said Farrell. “I think our kids are up to that challenge.”

St. Helena recently completed its spring practice sessions. The Saints will play in a 7-on-7 summer passing league against other area schools on Tuesday nights.

“It’s going to be a short summer,” said Farrell. “It’s not going to be long before we’re going to be talking about games. August 18 is really close.”

Official practices start on July 30.

St. Helena will face Arcata on Aug. 18, Sir Francis Drake-San Anselmo on Aug. 25, and Winters on Aug. 31 in nonleague games.

Arcata (8-5 overall, 3-2 Humboldt-Del Norte-Big 5) went 1-1 in the North Coast Section playoffs last year, beating Elsie Allen-Santa Rosa, 47-12, and losing to Clear Lake, 34-29.

Drake (2-7 overall, 2-3 Marin County Athletic League) did not make the playoffs last year.

Winters (5-5 overall, 2-2 Sacramento Valley League) lost in the first round of the CIF Northern Section playoffs last year to Pierce-Arbuckle, 53-46.

“I think everybody is going to be a big challenge for us,” Farrell said of the 10-game 2018 regular-season schedule. “We’re setting the expectations very high.

“We’re off and running. We’re trying to make sure that we’re putting good systems and good structure in place for this season. I think that’s one of the things that I lacked as a coach last year, is putting in good systems and structures. That’s the head coach’s job. We’re really trying to work on that.

“We’re trying to develop a system and a structure for everything we do – that’s taking from the first day of spring, all the way to summer, so we’re not focusing just on one facet of the game. We’re focusing on our run game. We’re focusing on run defense. We’re focusing on pass defense and our pass offense.

“Hopefully that will pay off in the end, because that’s really what it’s about.”

The top returners are Gannon Wilson (middle linebacker, fullback, guard), Frank Lenney (nose guard, center), Diesel Chappellet (guard, quarterback, middle linebacker), Luis Robledo (running back, strong safety, outside linebacker), and Eric Martinez (wide receiver, cornerback).

Robledo was a finalist for Special Teams Player of the Year on the 2017 All-Napa County team.

“We have a few positions of experience. And then we have lots of youth,” said Farrell.

“Our JV team has brought up many prepared players this year, in comparison to previous years. Our kids that are juniors have really blossomed into nice players, mainly due to coach (Ian) MacMillan and his leadership down there. We’re thrilled with some of the kids that are coming up through our program. And they have adjusted real well in the spring practice session.”

New to the varsity staff is Nick Reinell, who will work with offensive and defensive linemen.

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Executive Sports Editor

Executive Sports Editor Marty James has been with the Napa Valley Register since 1979. He is a member of the Associated Press Sports Editors, California Prep Sportswriters Association, and the California Golf Writers Association. He was inducted into the