The Sacred Heart Cathedral football team’s matchup against Campolindo this week will likely be its toughest test of the nonleague season, but will also present a clash of kindred spirits.
A year ago, Campolindo was in the same spot the Irish are in now, early in the 2012 season.
Picked to finish last in the Diablo Foothill Athletic League, the Cougars went 14-0 and beat Marin Catholic in the North Coast Section Division III championship game, before falling to Washington Union of Fresno in the D-III state championship game.
Now, the Irish have been picked last by the West Catholic Athletic League coaches in their preseason coaches poll, but surprised many when they dispatched Terra Nova with relative ease in their opener, a team that was ranked locally and regionally.
“We always feel that we are for real,” Sacred Heart Cathedral coach John Lee said. “People who don’t think much of us don’t know us. People base a lot of stuff at this level on what you have coming back and that makes sense, but that happens every year.”
“We watched them on film and I was surprised they were picked last,” Campolindo coach Kevin Macy said. “When you lose a bunch of people that’s the formula people go with.”
Lee spotlighted stopping standout Campolindo senior quarterback Brett Stephens as a key to winning Friday night at Kezar Stadium, needing another standout performance from an Irish defense that didn’t miss a beat against Terra Nova.
Stephens, a UCLA baseball commit, threw for 2,977 yards, 31 touchdowns and eight interceptions last season.
Lee gushed over Stephens’ quick release and compared him to former Mitty quarterback Kyle Boehm, who is now a redshirt freshman at Cal.
“The key is stopping their quarterback,” Lee said. “That guy is the real deal. We need to pressure him, but we also need to contain him. He can run the ball and that’s what makes him so deadly.”
For the Irish offense, the ball again will be snapped to senior quarterback Jerry Peralta, who threw for 244 yards on just 8-of-16 passing and also added 53 rushing yards against Terra Nova.
Over the summer, Lee said Peralta would split time with sophomore Logan White, but felt he never needed to shift Peralta to receiver against Terra Nova.
“We were going to [put White in]. That was in the cards, but fortunately Jerry was doing such a great job, we didn’t need to,” Lee said.
What the Irish likely won’t be able to absorb against Campolindo, however, is another second-half lull. Sacred Heart had a 27-0 lead late in the second quarter against Terra Nova, then allowed the Tigers to score 14 unanswered points to get back into the game.
“We came out well in the first half and it showed, sputtered in the third quarter and picked it up again in the fourth,” Lee said. “We have to play four quarters of football. I think we will find out where we are and what kind of caliber of players we have [on Friday].”