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Rivalry games take center stage as high school football season winds down

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Burlingame faces San Mateo on Saturday in the 90th playing of the Little Big Game. (Courtesy Cassis Brown/Burlingame Athletics)
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It isn’t the final week of the season, but it’s rivalry week for local high school football teams.

Most Central Coast Section football teams have two games remaining because of postponed games due to poor air quality from the North Bay fires. Here’s a rundown of some of the most-heated contests — in the final week of the original schedule — being played in the coming days:

90th Little Big Game: Burlingame (5-3) at San Mateo (6-2)

San Mateo County’s oldest rivalry will take center stage Saturday morning amidst great fanfare. Burlingame has won seven-straight meetings, including four by at least 29 points. But, this may be San Mateo’s best team since 2009, the last time the Bearcats topped the Panthers. San Mateo has allowed more than 21 points just once this season, and Burlingame’s defense has held a pair of explosive opponents — Aragon and Menlo-Atherton — to just 14 points apiece.

Burlingame leads series, 53-32-4

53rd Battle of the Fleas: Aragon (7-1) at Hillsdale (7-1)

Aragon dominated this rivalry for two-plus decades, winning 22 straight meetings, but the last four games have been competitive. Aragon escaped with a 43-41 win in 2013 before Hillsdale snapped the streak in 2014 with an overtime victory. Hillsdale won again in 2015, breaking the game open in the second half after taking the lead on a trick play as time expired in the first half. The Dons took back the trophy last year, scoring the final 13 points of the game for a 37-27 victory. While both teams were knocked from the ranks of the unbeaten and saw their league title hopes dashed last week, the 2017 Battle of the Fleas may be the best one yet. Aragon figures to get at least 30 carries from Paul Lautaimi on Friday night, while Hillsdale relies on the combination of QB Jeremy Teteak and running back Nick Hulman.

Aragon leads series, 34-18

51st Skull Game: Half Moon Bay (8-0) at Terra Nova (4-4)

The cliché about throwing out the records for rivalry games couldn’t be truer than in the Skull Game. Dating back to Half Moon Bay’s last win in the series, a 49-48 thriller in 2014 decided by a last-second touchdown, the underdog has taken the past three meetings. In this case, that would favor Terra Nova, a team that has dropped three straight but is trending up after keeping it close last week in a 35-30 loss to Menlo-Atherton. This is a battle between league opponents, with Half Moon Bay trying to protect its lead in the Bay Division, the top of the three divisions in the PAL. Half Moon Bay’s illustrious senior class, led by Chase Hofmann and Gavin Tomberlin, has won two straight section titles, but does not own a win over Terra Nova as a varsity unit. They’ll look to change that Friday night.

Terra Nova leads series, 33-15-2

56th Bell Game: South San Francisco (2-6) at El Camino (3-5)

As lopsided as the results of this series may be — South City has won 13 straight — the recent meetings have been painstakingly close for El Camino. Three of the last seven meetings have been decided by one score, and two of those, including last year, were by a single point. This will be just the third time El Camino has hosted the game, as the Colts played most home games, including the Bell Game, on South City’s campus until the facilities at El Camino were modernized in 2013.

South San Francisco leads series, 46-9

26th Stanfel Cup: Sacred Heart Cathedral (4-4) at Riordan (2-6)

These schools have battled for a half-century. But the Stanfel Cup was introduced in 1992 to honor Nick Stanfel, a 1983 graduate of Riordan who taught and coached at both schools over the next decade before succumbing to a brain tumor. A win for SHC would put the Fightin’ Irish in position to grab a playoff berth.

Riordan leads series, 33-14 (14-11 in Stanfel Cup era)

59th Battle of the Strip: Mills (3-5) at Capuchino (2-6)

This series is due for a close game, as the past seven meetings have been decided by at least 13 points. Capuchino won six of those. Both teams will rely heavily on two-way players, as neither roster has more than 30 names on it. Look for Mills’ Sione Langi and Capuchino’s Brandon Mailangi to have starring roles.

Capuchino leads series, 37-21

King’s Academy (2-6) at Jefferson (7-1)

TKA is trending in the right direction with two straight wins, showing that the rebuilding process under vaunted head coach Pete Lavorato may be shorter than anticipated. Jefferson, on the other hand, is riding high after a come-from-behind 40-28 win at Carlmont to seal the Lake Division title and clinch a playoff berth. TKA’s Bralyn Lux and Jefferson’s Angelo Velez should make for a battle of excellent running backs.

King’s Academy leads series, 8-1

Serra (6-2) at St. Ignatius (2-6)

This is simply an old-fashioned rivalry, built on trying to trounce one’s neighbor. Serra has had the upper hand as of late, winning 11 consecutive meetings, but it’s a sight to behold any time these two teams get together. Both are coming off big wins, with Serra taking a step toward a league title with a 35-7 win over Valley Christian, and St. Ignatius stunning Mitty with a 22-21 victory after trailing by 14 at the half.

Serra leads series, 34-16-1

Prep Focus writer Ethan Kassel covers high school sports throughout the Bay Area. If you have a story tip, game to watch or player to track, email him at ethankassel@gmail.com.

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