If the Mater Dei football program is known for producing Heisman Trophy-quality quarterbacks, and Servite for its assembly line of massive, yet skilled, offensive linemen, then Santa Margarita surely has the market cornered on sure-handed wide receivers.
The latest pass-catching phenom is senior Grant Calcaterra, who possesses the unique combination of size, speed and soft hands that allow quarterbacks and coaches to sleep well at night.
Recruiters from the University of Oklahoma recognized those traits last season and offered Calcaterra a scholarship in February. Following an unofficial visit a month later, he accepted the invitation.
“They’re getting an unbelievable kid,” said Santa Margarita coach Rich Fisher.
Fisher’s only in his first year with the Eagles, but he’s been around long enough to know Santa Margarita’s string of talented receivers dates back to 1991, the third year of existence for the varsity program. That’s the fall when sophomore twins Brad and Brian Finneran began taking advantage of their size, speed and soft hands, much the same way Calcaterra does today.
After starring at Santa Margarita for three years, the Finnerans continued their football careers at Villanova, where Brian began to separate himself from his brother, eventually graduating with school receiving records in receptions (265), yards (2,685) and touchdowns (34). Brian went on to play 13 seasons in the NFL, including 11 with the Atlanta Falcons.
More recently, the Eagles have developed receivers such as River Cracraft and Kyle Sweet, who have emerged as two of the prime targets in Washington State’s pass-heavy offense, and 2016 Santa Margarita graduate Kekoa Crawford is getting early playing time this season as a true freshman at Michigan.
Calcaterra’s commitment to Oklahoma is also a rarity. Seldom do the Sooners recruit or land athletes from Orange County, but Calcaterra was born in Cincinnati and has Midwest ties. He was also impressed with every aspect of the school, from the campus, to the experienced coaching staff to the nine Big 12 championships since 1996.
“It’s a storied program,” Calcaterra said.
Calcaterra’s biggest challenge might be which position he’ll eventually settle into at the college level. His 6-foot-4, 215-pound frame could temp coaches into switching Calcaterra to tight end, though he would prefer the opportunity to show he can still play wide receiver at the college level.
“That’s kind of what I’m shooting for,” he said.
Fisher heard similar descriptions of Calcaterra when he was hired in January, mainly that Calcaterra was a superior pass catcher but a “tweener” when tying him to a position.
“He has proven, in my eyes, that he can play wide receiver,” Fisher said. “I don’t know how much bigger he’s going to get, but he definitely has performed above my expectations.”
The Eagles were soundly beaten by Mission Viejo in their season opener Aug. 26, but rebounded well and beat Loyola and Alemany by double figures. As expected, Calcaterra was the go-to receiver for senior quarterback Robert Wagner, combining for 26 catches for 369 yards and four touchdowns through the first three games.
“Coming off the Mission week, we were pretty motivated,” Calcaterra said. “We knew that we left a lot of game out on the field, so we were determined to come back, bounce back and show teams in our league what we can really do.”
When it comes to Santa Margarita, it all starts with the wide receiver.