SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. — The San Francisco Italian Athletic Club’s high school awards dinner is something of a who’s who in the local prep sports scene, bringing together longtime coaches and advocates of high school sports from around San Francisco as athletes from all around the City come together to celebrate their accomplishments.
While many of the celebrants and honorees hail from families that have been tied to San Francisco for decades, one of the recipients of the Angelo “Hank” Luisetti Scholar Athlete of the Year Trophy was a relative newcomer.
Silas Bahlibi, who was born in Ethiopia and stood out on the gridiron as a defensive lineman in his lone season playing football at Sacred Heart Cathedral, was deservedly honored as the male winner of the award. A standout both on the football field and in the classroom, Bahlibi will attend Notre Dame on an academic scholarship in the fall, where he plans to major in neuroscience.
“I’ve always wanted to do pre-med,” said Bahlibi, whose father is a doctor.
Coaches like Brian Harrigan and Ed Nevius were honored for contributions that began long before Bahlibi’s family had even arrived in the United States, having emigrated when Silas was six. While he was relatively fresh to the City compared to many of the other attendees, Bahlibi has fit right in, both on the football field and around campus, becoming a cornerstone of SHC’s Class of 2022. When he wasn’t playing football or excelling in the classroom, he was regularly spotted at other SHC events, supporting his peers.
“Playing football let me connect with a lot of the other athletes and support my school,” he said as he reflected on a season that culminated in a CCS Division III and CIF Division 4-A Championship. “I would’ve never been here if I hadn’t played football my senior year.”
Bahlibi was far from the only member of the SHC community to be honored on Monday night. The volleyball trophy, given to St. Ignatius senior Natalie Lau, was named after outgoing Fightin’ Irish volleyball coach Margi Beima. Bahlibi’s teammate, linebacker and running back Jerry Mixon Jr., earned the Vince Tringali Football Trophy while Ray-John Spears, who served as both a star quarterback and point guard for the Fightin’ Irish, was given the male Athlete of the Year Trophy and delivered one of the most charismatic speeches of the night.
Spears, like many of the athletes honored at the dinner, has been a victim of the roster squeeze created at college programs with players taking advantage of the extra COVID year and teams choosing to recruit players via the transfer portal rather than look for incoming freshmen. Given the current climate, he’ll be playing both football and basketball at CCSF.
Bahlibi certainly would have had opportunities to play football in college had he chosen to, but he instead has his sights set on the full academic experience at Notre Dame, where his brother is already attending school as a freshman. He does plan on attending every football game, and considering his talents, there’s certainly an avenue for him to find his way on the team as a walk-on if his rigorous academic schedule were to permit it.
“I’ll get to be Irish for another four years,” he joked.