Prep football preview 2022: DE Seth Fao focuses on moving forward

Sixth in a series of stories profiling top high school football players by position. Now Seth Fao, defender of Wilmington Banning.

When COVID-19 began closing classrooms and sports activities in March 2020, 14-year-old freshman Seth Fao was reeling. His mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. His father underwent dialysis every other day. Football training stopped and he suddenly had to learn school lessons on the computer at home.

“It was really hard,” he said. “I was distracted at home.”

His grades at Anaheim Servite High were declining rapidly. He would eventually check out and began being homeschooled. There would be no football in his sophomore year.

“We tried our best over a computer screen,” said Servite football coach Troy Thomas. “It was a tough time.”

Fao returned to his neighborhood school, Wilmington Banning. A plan was devised to give him an opportunity to catch up academically and play football again. At 6ft 3 and 230lbs, Fao has always had the talent to excel. But college recruiters left him a blunt message.

“I’ve learned that no matter how good you are as a football player, you only get as far as your grades get,” he said. “It’s serious.”

Fao is on his way to be the comeback student of the year in the classroom. He’s been catching up on classes, improving his GPAs and putting himself in a position to accept a college scholarship when it comes. And it’s coming.

He’s a high-ranked defenseman with the agility to chase down quarterbacks. At Banning last season, he was an All-City pick. He played running back, receiver, safety, cornerback, and linebacker. He was also a starter for the volleyball team. He comes from a family of older brothers who played soccer at Banning and Long Beach Poly.

Growing up, Fao said that whether it was competing for food or sitting on the couch, his 350-pound older brother Sergio would toughen him up. “When I compete against people my size, I don’t feel like I’m going to get hurt,” he said.

Regaining his focus in the classroom helps him move forward in life.

Banning's Seth Fao runs the ball against Peninsula.

Banning’s Seth Fao, center, runs as the Peninsula high defenders try to stop him in the second half during their victory at Peninsula High School in the Rolling Hills Estates on Thursday, September 2, 2021.

(Allen J. Schaben/Los Angeles Times)

“It was a unique situation with a lot of external things on top of the academic things,” Thomas said. “He is a good boy. I really liked him. He’s definitely a kid who can play and start in Trinity League. He was very busy with his family. We tried to be there for him as best we could. At the end of the day he made a decision that is best for him and his family.”

In the spring, Fao was struggling with other health problems affecting his family. His father had an operation. His mother continued cancer treatments. Football is his opportunity to let his emotions run free and escape from these problems. He has many supporters to help keep him on track to complete his classroom work to keep college options viable.

He really wants to see his mother and father in the stands in the fall.

“There’s no other feeling when you have your family and everyone cheering for you,” he said. “It’s euphoric.”

Watch defensive linemen

Name, School, Ht., Wt., Year, Comment

Sinn Brennan, Los Alamitos, 6-5, 235, Sr. Spent the summer remodeling his body

Cameron Bryant, Sierra Canyon, 6-4, 265, Sr. Stanford Commitment is strong, athletic

Lucas Conti, Corona Centennial, 6-5, 260, Sr. Arizona Commit is another effective Husky QB chaser

TA Cunningham, Los Alamitos, 6-6, 265, Jr. Top Georgia transfer enjoys high standing

Seth Fao, Banning, 6-3, 230, Sr. Uses Athletics to get out of line quickly

TJ Ford, Chaminade, 6-2, 300, Jr. You don’t shove him out of the way

Ashton Sanders, LA Cathedral, 6-3, 295, Sr. Cal Commitment is power within

Jaggar Tavai, Gardena Serra, 6-0, 285, Sr. He is the fifth brother to play defense

Matayo Uiagalelei, St. John Bosco, 6-5, 265, Sr. Can be a physical, dominant player

Frederick Williams, Gardena Serra, 6-5, 240, Sr. Edge Rusher will make sacks in bundles

Morning: Weston Port, San Juan Hills linebacker. Prep football preview 2022: DE Seth Fao focuses on moving forward

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