St. Ignatius quarterback Zach Taylor-Smith (5) breaks a tackle from Sacred Heart Cathedral linebacker Benjamin Cervantez (6) at Kezar Stadium on September 27, 2019 in San Francisco, California. (Chris Victorio | Special to S.F. Examiner)

SF Preps: City WCAL teams take field as underdogs

Academic Athletic Association play gets under way with Lowell taking on Mission

The first week of October is an intriguing one on the gridiron in San Francisco as Academic Athletic Association play gets underway while all three West Catholic Athletic League teams in the City go into battle as underdogs.

Valley Christian (4-0, 1-0 WCAL) @ St. Ignatius (3-1, 1-0), Saturday, 2 p.m.: As high as the Wildcats were flying after last Friday’s Bruce-Mahoney victory, they immediately had to turn their attention to an enormous challenge, taking on one of the Bay Area’s best teams and one of the favorites to win the WCAL. Valley Christian has far too many top players to list, but one of the most impactful is Washington State commit Moon Ashby, one of the top cornerbacks that SI’s quarterback tandem of Teddye Buchanan and Zach Taylor-Smith will have to face.

The Warriors also have tremendous youth, including sophomore linebacker Will Cuddie (38 tackles, 10 TFL, four sacks) and freshman receiver Jurrion Dickey (seven receptions for 139 yards). Typically a run-heavy outfit, Valley Christian is also prolific through the air this year, led by the extremely powerful arm of Cory Taylor. As always, the Warriors are stout against the run, but SI showed the ability to move the ball on the ground last week with Joe Celentano, who picked up 76 yards on 16 carries.

Riordan (2-2, 0-1 WCAL) @ Mitty (3-1, 1-0), Friday, 7 p.m. at Foothill College: The Crusaders unraveled after a strong first quarter against Serra, and it won’t get much easier this week with a trip to face a Mitty team armed with tremendous athletes. Quarterback Shamir Bey (46-69 passing, 732 yards) and wide receiver Reymello Murphy (18 catches-380 yards) are among the most dynamic players at their position in the entire Central Coast Section. However, the Monarchs have just 35 men on the roster and are thin on the lines, creating what could be a favorable matchup for a run-heavy Riordan under first-year head coach Mark Modeste. After being limited to 32 yards on 13 carries last week, it’ll be a bounce-back opportunity for Crusader running back Fazon Ruth.

Sacred Heart Cathedral (0-4, 0-1 WCAL) @ St. Francis (1-3, 0-1), Friday, 7 p.m.: From one great atmosphere to another, the Fightin’ Irish will have a chance to rebound from last week’s Bruce-Mahoney loss at one of the best stadiums in the Bay Area. 2019 could be considered a down year for St. Francis thus far, as the Lancers have been tasked with replacing a killer senior class. One of their top returners, though, is quarterback Ryan Daly, who spent his first two years at SHC before transferring. Senior lineman Raymond Taliauli also made the move along with Daly, meaning there’ll be some familiarity when he and Mose Vavao, anchors of St. Francis’ remarkable line, go to battle with Evan Branch-Haynes in the trenches.

Lowell (2-1-1) vs. Mission (0-3-1), Friday, 3 p.m. at Kezar Stadium: A strong showing in nonleague play has vaulted Lowell into the mix for the fourth AAA playoff spot, and the Cardinals have a chance to make a big impression on Friday against Mission. The Bears have yet to taste victory in 2019, but they’ve hung close with Oakland Tech and Sequoia. When they last took the field, an overtime win against Oakland could have been in the works had the game not been halted by a bizarre brawl that started when a fan rushed the field. A win over Harbor before last week’s bye gave Lowell a chance to show off its two-headed rushing attack, with a healthy Brennan Nguy taking over and allowing Benjamin Ng to serve as the Cardinals’ secondary option.

Galileo (0-4) @ Balboa (0-4), Saturday, 2 p.m.: September was harsh for both the Lions and Buccaneers, who were outscored by a combined 298-20, but Saturday offers a chance to put those struggles in the rearview mirror and get on the right path for a chance at a postseason berth. Past Lincoln, the AAA looks to be wide-open this year, so starting league play with a win will be a massive step forward for the victor. Three wins could be enough for fourth place, so whoever comes out on top Saturday will have an enormous edge over the competition.

Lincoln (2-1) @ Washington (0-3), Friday, 3 p.m.: The Eagles dealt with a tremendous running back last week when they had to take on California School for the Deaf’s Calel Aramboles, and they’ll have to deal with more of the same this week from Lincoln. The Mustangs may not have one individual on Aramboles’ level, but the entire roster seems to either be racing to the end zone or blocking to open up holes for the speedsters who get out into the open field. In Saturday’s win over El Camino, the Mustangs ran for 437 yards, with 157 coming from Luis Contreras on 18 carries. Owen Creed needed just three carries to pick up 68 yards, while junior Ahleir Barnett gained 64 on 14 attempts.

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