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SF Preps Football: Serra and Valley Christian headline another big weekend

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Serra linebacker E.J. Lahlouh (6) sacks Archbishop Riordan quarterbackAdham Abdelghani on Oct. 6, 2018, at Junipero Serra High School in San Mateo, Calif. (Ryan Gorcey / S.F. Examiner)

This week’s high school football schedule includes games that won’t just determine league titles, but also clashes that will have a profound effect on postseason races.

Serra (4-2, 3-0 WCAL) @ Valley Christian (4-2, 2-1), Friday, 7 p.m.

With Serra’s rejuvenated offense and Valley Christian’s habit of clamping down on teams defensively, Friday’s battle between two of the top three teams in the WCAL should be a great one. Serra’s offense has found new life with Luke Bottari’s new set of weapons, including Nate Sanchez, Malakai Rango, Terence Loville, Matt Rollandi and Patrick Simon. Defensively, the Padres have also stepped their game up with Sanchez and a healthy E.J. Lahlouh, plus defensive end Nusi Malani’s improved health.

Valley Christian, meanwhile, lost a stunner in a season-opening defeat to Wilcox and was on the losing end of a gritty defensive battle last week against St. Francis, falling 7-3. The teams met twice last year, with Serra winning at home in both the regular season and the playoffs. The last time they met on Valley Christian’s hilltop campus, it was the Warriors who came away with a 35-28 win — the last time Serra was defeated in WCAL play.

The Padres have since won 20 straight against league opponents, including four in the postseason. Only two teams have scored more than 10 points against the Warriors this season, and Valley has allowed just 14 points over three WCAL games this year. They don’t take to the air much, but when the Warriors do, they have 3-star tight end Skylar Loving-Black, who has three touchdowns on the year. Running backs Isaiah McElvane, Thomas Dunham and Michael Corini allow the Warriors to control the clock and dominate time of possession. On defense, Blake Newquist has a team-high 47 tackles and Judaea Moon has eight sacks.

St. Francis will also be watching this one closely. Unless there are any major upsets, the outcome of this one will decide if the Nov. 3 game between the Padres and Lancers is going to decide the title by itself, or if there’s a possibility for a three-way split.

Lincoln (5-0, 1-0 AAA) vs. Mission (3-3, 1-1), Friday, 3 p.m. at Kezar Stadium

There’s no time for the Bears to lick their wounds after last week’s defeat to Galileo. The AAA title seems to be a three-team race, and undefeated Lincoln is ready for Friday’s showdown after pasting Washington last week, 64-0. With a running clock in the second half, Jovon Baker and DeSean Crawford took a break from putting up crazy rushing numbers and got some rest, as Luis Contreras led the Mustangs with 91 rushing yards. Lincoln also has something that few other teams in the AAA can boast — a solid kicking game. Isaac Kolberg made all eight of his PAT tries last week and is 24-of-28 on the season.

Mission was plagued by turnovers in that loss to the Lions, and should the Bears be able to clean those up, McKinley Oliver and Jelani Al-Malik have the athleticism to hang with the best of them. DeMar Simons and Will Delaney Jr. round out an attack that gives teams a handful to deal with, regardless of the situation. All four are extremely versatile athletes that can beat opponents on both sides of the ball.

Both the league title and playoff seeding will be at stake in this one. The loser can take solace in the possibility of seeing the winner again, but a defeat likely means going on the road to do so.

Sacred Heart Cathedral (3-3, 1-2 WCAL) @ Bellarmine (2-4, 1-2), Friday, 7 p.m. at San Jose City College

Coming off a dramatic Bruce-Mahoney win, the Fightin’ Irish will take to the field on Friday in one of their most important games of the year. With the WCAL typically sending two at-large teams to the postseason to go with the four receiving automatic berths, a win in San Jose could put SHC in the playoffs for a second straight year.

Bellarmine, a perennial powerhouse, is trending down right now, having lost lopsided games to Serra (43-0) and Mitty (35-14) over the past two weeks. While the Bells do have solid skill players in speedster Tyson Garcia and Anthony Magri, who impacts the game both in the secondary and as a wide receiver, they lack the size on the line that much of the WCAL boasts. This means that instead of fitting in, sophomore Evan Branch-Haynes will have a chance to tower above the competition for the Irish.

The main advantage the Bells have would be in depth. While the hosts will be able to hand the ball off and call toss plays for a variety of rushers, almost every Sacred Heart Cathedral run play will go to Anthony Heard. Appropriately called “Speedy,” Heard had three touchdowns and 220 yards on 29 carries in last week’s victory over St. Ignatius, the first varsity win for sophomore quarterback Cian Dowling.

Redwood (4-3, 3-1 MCAL) @ Marin Catholic (4-3, 2-0), Saturday, 2 p.m.

This rivalry has been rather one-sided over the past decade, with Marin Catholic winning ten straight meetings. It’s been mainly blowouts, with the closest meeting being decided by 25 points in 2015. Yes, the teams put up similar results against Terra Linda this year, with each side beating the Trojans comfortably, but Marin Catholic boasts a 47-14 win against a San Marin team that beat the Giants 28-6.

In last week’s homecoming victory over San Marin, freshman quarterback Michael Ingrassia threw for a touchdown and ran for two more.

Mitty (4-2, 2-1 WCAL) @ St. Ignatius (0-6, 0-3), Saturday, 1 p.m.

The Wildcats have the distinction of being one of the top winless teams in the country, having lost three games to teams with recent state championship appearances and three by one score, including Friday’s Bruce-Mahoney Game. That game featured the debut of junior quarterback Zach Taylor-Smith, who will face one of the best junior dual-threat QBs in the region this week when the Monarchs roll into town, led by the remarkable Shamir Bey.

Bey has thrown for exactly 1,000 yards in six games this season and run for another 183, accounting for 19 touchdowns in all. It seems that teams have focused on keeping him in the pocket and forcing him to do damage with his arm, because when he gets out in the open field, the 6-foot-2 athlete is one of the best rushers around.

Lowell (0-4, 0-2 AAA) @ Galileo (5-1, 2-0), Friday, 3 p.m.

So long as they don’t overlook Lowell after last week’s triumphant win over Mission, the odds should be on the Lions’ side. Galileo’s explosive offense put up another 42 points last week, while the Cardinals have been shut out in three straight games.

Archbishop Riordan (0-6, 0-3 WCAL) @ Mountain View-St. Francis (5-1, 3-0), Friday, 7 p.m.

After a 57-6 drilling from Serra last week, it gets no easier for the Crusaders, who have another game on the road against one of the juggernauts of the WCAL. While Serra is known for a dynamic offense, the Lancers are renowned for their defense. With quarterback Jack Perry out for the year with an ACL injury, St. Francis has scored just 21 points in the past two weeks, but still shut out Sacred Heart Cathedral 14-0 and beat Valley Christian 7-3, even without the services of running back Andre Bishop. It’ll be another grueling test for quarterback Adham Abdelghani and the Riordan offense.

Washington (1-5, 0-2 AAA) @ Balboa (3-1, 2-0), Saturday, 2 p.m.

If the Eagles are still smarting from last week’s blowout loss to Lincoln, they’ll have a chance for redemption as they try to spoil Balboa’s homecoming party. The Buccaneers are coming off a bye, meaning A.J. Velasquez — who ran for 120 yards and three touchdowns the last time the Bucs took the field– should be fresh and ready to go.

Balboa’s three victories have all been shutouts, while Washington has been blanked three times, including two in AAA play by a combined 110-0 score. Those defeats did come against Lincoln and Mission — two serious title contenders — so it’ll be a measuring stick for the Bucs.

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