Archbishop Riordan linebacker Raymond Russell delivers a hit on Serra quarterback Daylin McLemore in a game at Jefferson High School in Daly City, Calif. on Sept. 27, 2019. (Ryan Gorcey / S.F. Examiner)

Saturday clash highlights weekend’s prep football slate

SF Preps Football Preview: Riordan enters clash with Bellarmine as favorites

St. Francis (2-3, 1-1 WCAL) @ St. Ignatius (3-2, 1-1), Saturday, 1 p.m.: Typically a no-nonsense, traditional football team, it’s rare to see St. Ignatius take the field as the more aggressive and explosive squad, but that’ll be the case on Saturday when the Wildcats host St. Francis.

The Lancers have relied for years on a massive offensive line, stout defensive front and strong run game, winning last year’s WCAL title and making back-to-back NorCal championship appearances, including a state title run in 2017. They come to the Sunset District as a much younger and less-experienced team. There’s no shortage of promise, though, with sophomore running back Camilo Arquette — who ran for three touchdowns last week — leading the way. He’ll counter a St. Ignatius run game that has been paced by Joe Celentano, who will now be accompanied in the backfield by Jahsai Shannon, who returned to San Francisco to finish his senior year with his friends after initially moving to Las Vegas with his family.

Shannon’s return means the Wildcats have four different major options to carry the ball, including both quarterbacks, Teddye Buchanan and Zach Taylor-Smith.

Buchanan’s arm has played as much as his legs, and his favorite target has undoubtedly been Danny Ryan, who has caught a touchdown in each of the team’s first five games. Both Buchanan and Taylor-Smith can also look to Danny Burke and tight end Marcelo Villavicencio. Games with St. Francis are typically won and lost in the trenches, though, so it’ll be up to St. Ignatius’ Beau Gardner and company to match up with the likes of Mose Vavao, Afa Sanft and Raymond Taliauli, all of whom clock in at over 300 pounds. They provide protection for quarterback Ryan Daly, who spent his first two seasons at Sacred Heart Cathedral before heading down the Peninsula to join the Lancers.

Bellarmine (1-4, 0-2 WCAL) @ Riordan (2-3, 0-2), Friday, 7 p.m. at Jefferson HS: For the first time in what feels like an eternity, the Crusaders will enter a showdown with the Bells as the presumptive favorites. Over the last few years, Bellarmine has been passed up on the WCAL food chain, priming Riordan for an opportunity to snap a 12-game league losing streak that dates back to Oct. 20, 2017. The Crusaders haven’t won a league game in regulation since 2015, the last time they reached the playoffs. In that year, the Bells were the juggernauts of the league, taking home a share of the title and handing Riordan a 14-6 loss. While Aden Jackson is not expected to play for Riordan after a scary head injury in last week’s loss at Mitty, the junior wide receiver is making a strong recovery.

Burton (2-1, 0-0 AAA) @ Balboa (1-4, 1-0), Saturday, 2 p.m.: It’s been a difficult start to the season for Balboa, facing a killer nonleague schedule without running back AJ Velasquez, who’s out for the season after suffering meniscus and ACL injuries prior to the start of the season. The Buccaneers finally got thrown a bone last week, beating Galileo by forfeit, and they’ll enter play Saturday with a leg up on the competition in the AAA playoff race thanks to the free win. Burton finished one spot shy of the postseason last year, and senior quarterback Alfonzo Smith is on a mission to lead the Pumas on a deep playoff run well into November and beyond.

Sacred Heart Cathedral (0-5, 0-2 WCAL) @ Valley Christian (5-0, 2-0), Saturday, 7 p.m.: Homecoming at Valley Christian is a sight to behold, and the K-12 school will be ready to put on a show Saturday night when the Fightin’ Irish roll into town. Not only do the teams have opposite records, they played very opposite games last week. Valley pulled away from St. Ignatius in the fourth quarter, while the Fightin’ Irish were dispatched by St. Francis in the second half after overcoming an early 14-point deficit. Second halves have been the bane of SHC’s season so far, the sign of a young team still trying to put its pieces together.

Galileo (0-5, 0-1 AAA) vs. Mission (1-3-1, 1-0), Friday, 3 p.m, at Kezar Stadium: A renewed focus on academics meant Mission opened league play last week by welcoming a significant portion of its roster back, and the hard work paid off with a 42-0 win over Lowell. Galileo has been on the other end of the spectrum with eligibility, lacking enough players to take the field last week in a forfeit loss to Balboa.

Washington (0-4, 0-1 AAA) @ Lowell (2-2-1, 0-1), Friday, 3 p.m.: The Battle of the Birds is always a special matchup, pitting schools who have been battling since 1936. It’ll also be a chance for both teams to vent some frustrations as the two both suffered shutout losses last week to open league play.

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