New wave of contenders dominate Peninsula fall prep sports

High school football and volleyball playoffs are under way, and there’s no shortage of compelling stories around San Francisco and the surrounding area.

St. Ignatius football

Talk about finishing strong.

After an overtime loss to Riordan dropped the Wildcats to 1-6, St. Ignatius won two of its final three games to close the year, erasing a 14-point halftime deficit at Mitty and leading wire-to-wire against Bellarmine, the first time the Wildcats have beaten the Bells since the 2012 postseason. The Wildcats went from last place in the WCAL to the brink of playoff contention, and while they ultimately missed the postseason, such a strong finish leaves plenty of hope for the future of the program.

Burlingame volleyball

It’s been a banner year for the Panthers.

After winning last year’s CCS Division III title, Burlingame won its first league title since 2010, winning all 14 PAL Bay matches. The Panthers have won 69 sets over the course of the season while dropping just 28. They reached the CCS Open Division, where they lost to top-ranked Mitty, and are the 12th seed in the CIF Division I bracket. They’ll travel to take on fifth-seeded Lick-Wilmerding tonight.

AAA football

The games postponed due to air quality from the North Bay fires are set for this week.

The winner of Saturday’s Mission-Lincoln game will take the regular-season title and the top seed in the postseason. A semifinal matchup with Galileo awaits the loser. Galileo is responsible for Lincoln’s only league loss to this point and was the only team to stay within striking distance of Mission, falling 40-34. Semifinals are set for Nov. 24, the day after Thanksgiving, and the championship is set for Dec. 2 at Kezar Stadium.

Sacred Heart Cathedral football

No JV, no problem.

After injuries had depleted the SHC roster, the JV squad forfeited its final three games and promoted the remaining 15 players to the varsity team. That varsity team has continued its impressive run under first-year head coach Barry McLaughlin, posting a 6-4 record, including 3-4 in the WCAL. The Fightin’ Irish beat St. Ignatius in the Bruce-Mahoney game for the first time since 2011 and won the Stanfel Cup over Riordan to clinch a trip to the playoffs. SHC earned the fourth seed in the CCS Division III Playoffs and will host Live Oak (Morgan Hill) at Kezar Stadium on Friday.

PAL football

The league sends eight of its 18 members to the postseason, with four of them squaring off Friday.

Undefeated Half Moon Bay claimed the Bay Division title and the top seed in Division III, setting up a rematch with eighth-seeded Burlingame on Friday night. The Cougars took the first meeting, 39-15. Aragon finished second to HMB and earned the second seed in a loaded Division II field. A victory over seventh-seeded Westmont would likely set up a semifinal with St. Francis. Jefferson’s Angelo Velez-fueled run to the Lake Division title earned the Grizzlies the seventh seed in Division V and a Saturday trip to Ocean Division champion Menlo. Hillsdale, which finished second to Menlo, earned the fourth seed in Division V.

Serra football

With their first outright league title in 49 years secured, the Padres now turn their attention to repeating as CCS Division II Champions.

They’ll have to traverse a loaded field, including a potential semifinal rematch with WCAL runner-up Valley Christian and a possible championship rematch with St. Francis. Last week, the Lancers erased a 21-0 deficit to Serra before the Padres ultimately scored the final ten points to secure their first WCAL title since Lynn Swann’s high school days. Columbia commit Chris Park had two receiving touchdowns and an interception in that game for Serra.

St. Ignatius volleyball

If it wasn’t for those darned Monarchs …

St. Ignatius is 33-9, and perennial state title contender Mitty has been the only thing in the Wildcats’ path this season. Mitty has claimed all four meetings between the teams this season: two regular-season WCAL meetings, the WCAL Tournament championship, and the CCS Open Division Championship Game. The two could meet again in the second round of the Open Division if St. Ignatius defeats fifth-seeded Monte Vista and Mitty takes care of business against eighth-seeded St. Francis.

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

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