When Lincoln and Mission finally meet for the City title this weekend, it’ll be a meeting between one of the most dominant AAA football teams in recent years and a program that’s no stranger to championship games.
The Mustangs have largely breezed through their schedule this year en route to a perfect 11-0 record, and while the Bears are in their fifth consecutive title game, they’ve lost the last two.
“I’m not losing this game for a third time,” Mission lineman Zeke Bellino told his teammates on Black Friday after Mission’s dominating 27-0 semifinal win at Galileo. The Bears forced six turnovers en route to shutting down a Lions team that had put up 42 points when the teams met in October. Like they did last week, the Bears will once again have a chance to avenge a regular-season loss, as Lincoln won 29-15 when the teams met back on October 12.
With the wet conditions, Lincoln’s usual high-flying offense was held in check during last week’s 7-0 win over Balboa as the Mustangs’ grass field turned into a Slip ‘N Slide. Though the Mustangs did get 153 yards from DeSean Crawford, turnovers were a constant obstacle. Nevertheless, the defense posted its third shutout of the year.
Shutting down the Bears won’t be quite so easy with McKinley Oliver and Jelani Al-Malik clicking as of late. Oliver ran 16 times for 96 yards and three touchdowns at Galileo, while Al-Malik needed just 12 carries to amass 135 yards.
Unlike most AAA games, which are filled with two-point attempts, the goalposts may actually get some use in the championship. Lincoln’s Isaac Kolberg and Mission’s Matt Cohn have both shown strong legs throughout the season, with Kolberg 45-of-49 on extra points. In a close game, the kickers could end up under the magnifying glass.
It’s all set to go down Friday at 5 p.m. at Kezar Stadium, though if the recent wet conditions leave the grass field unplayable, there is a contingency plan to put the game at Washington on Saturday at 1:30.
Whether it goes down Friday or Saturday, legacies will be at stake. Mission has arguably been the team of the decade, set to make an eighth title appearance in the last nine years, and though there have been powerhouse AAA teams over the years, few have dominated both in and out of the City like this year’s Lincoln team has, including an impressive win over Piedmont.
The winner will advance to the NorCal regional playoffs and have a chance to challenge the legacy of last year’s Galileo team, the only San Francisco Section football team to win a state championship or even win a regional playoff game. Any City champion will be compared to that Galileo team for years to come, so even with some questions being settled this weekend, the debate is just beginning.
NCS Division II Semifinals: #5 Marin Catholic (9-3) @ #1 Rancho Cotate (11-1)
Sonoma State hasn’t had a football team since 1996, but there’s no shortage of good football in Rohnert Park. Rancho Cotate will welcome Marin Catholic in on Friday night in a battle of high-flying offenses, with the winner advancing to … a coin flip? With a week of NCS playoff games wiped out, as of now, the championships are set to be decided by a coin toss to allow winners to advance to regional playoffs, though there’s still room for the section to make changes to decide things. With the current plan, the regional berths will go to coin flips unless teams have head-to-head results, which means that if Marin Catholic pulls off the upset and Campolindo beats Bishop O’Dowd, Campolindo would be headed for a NorCal playoff game.
While Marin Catholic can score, it was the defense that did most of the work during last week’s 14-7 win at Granada. With freshman quarterback Michael Ingrassia injured, junior Gaven Cooke, typically a wide receiver, played QB and passed for 92 yards and ran for 81. The defense held the Matadors to 273 yards and forced three turnovers to pull off the road win.