Perhaps the best football player in Petaluma and one of the best in the Redwood Empire did not receive All-League recognition.
That is because Giovanni Antonini did not have a league to recognize him. Antonini’s school, St. Vincent de Paul, has, for the last two seasons played as an independent. That will change next season when St. Vincent joins the North Bay League Redwood Division.
By then, Antonini will be playing college football, hopefully at a school that is far away enough to feel like a change, but close enough to maintain his ties to family and home town.
Antonini, listed at 6-foot-3, 250 pounds, is, without argument, one of the best offensive linemen in the area, the anchor of a unit that helped St. Vincent rush for 2,522 yards this season.
It is also without argument that Antonini is an even better defensive player.
He was credited with 100 tackles, 26 for loss, in 11 games. In his four years of St. Vincent varsity football, he had 285 tackles, 69 tackles for loss and 12 forced fumbles — all school records.
His roster listed position was middle linebacker, but in reality he lined up all over the field — wherever his talents and aggressiveness could best be utilized.
“I just like defense. I have a defensive mindset,” Antonini said. “I like going full speed. Defense is a lot of fun.”
He said that of the colleges that have contacted him, most are looking at him as a linebacker or defensive end.
“He is one of the most respected players on and off the field,” said St. Vincent coach Trent Herzog.
“He’s a throwback,” the coach said, noting that Antonini’s physical talents are only part of what makes the player special. “He is all heart and toughness,” the coach said.
“He never complained, even when he was playing hurt. He is a quiet leader on and off the field.”
The 17-year-old senior would have been a standout and probably all-league at any school, but there was never any question that he would play at St. Vincent. He began school at St. Vincent Elementary and just naturally progressed to St. Vincent High School as a senior.
Being a three-sport athlete at an academic school like St. Vincent can sometimes be difficult, but Antonini has managed well.
“The curriculum is tough, but it is definitely doable,” he says of balancing books and sports.