KEZAR STADIUM — Coming off back-to-back losses, Mission didn’t waste any time asserting its dominance on Friday afternoon, racing out to a 28-0 lead en route to a 37-13 victory over Balboa, one that will likely lock the Academic Athletic Association playoff picture into place.
While most offenses that like to keep the ball on the ground are effective by picking up four or five yards at a time, the Bears are no ordinary team. Mission (4-4, 2-2) mostly worked by picking up big chunks on every play. Eight yards here, 20 yards there, and a few big touchdowns to top it off.
Quarterback McKinley Oliver ran for 163 yards, including a touchdown. Even when he didn’t have the ball, things were still in good hands. Will Delaney got things going with an early 36-yard score, and it was 14-0 before the end of the first quarter, as Jaleel Bender raced in for a 43-yard touchdown. Oliver’s touchdown early in the second made it a three-score game, and a Will Loveless fumble return for another touchdown made it 28-0.
Still, Balboa (5-2, 3-1) wouldn’t go quietly.
“Nobody gave us a chance,” said Buccaneers head coach Fred Velasquez. “It’s a process, and once we figure out that process, we’re going to be alright, and we’re going to surprise a lot of people.”
A Caden DeGuzman touchdown before halftime cut the deficit to 28-6, and though Balboa fumbled the kickoff return to open the third quarter, the loose ball kept squirting around and finally landed in the hands of Andre Monroe, who took it 63 yards to cut the lead to 15.
A personal foul penalty on the return plus a roughing the kicker flag on the extra point had Balboa kicking off from the Mission 30, but rather than go for the onside kick in plus territory, the Buccaneers chose to kick it out of the end zone. Mission immediately seized the opportunity, going 80 yards to restore a three-score lead. Oliver picked up 31 yards on a fake punt, and Jelani Al-Malik, who ran for a modest 68 yards on the day, finished the drive with a 12-yard score, the second fourth-down conversion of the drive.
Matt Cohn added a late 37-yard field goal as the Bears securely locked themselves into the third position in the AAA standings. Barring any major surprises, Mission will travel to Galileo in the City semifinals.
“We just had to stick to what we do,” said head coach Tobias Whitley. “We ran the ball and kept moving the chains.”
As for Balboa, a team that went winless in 2017, the Buccaneers are likely to finish with the fourth and final postseason spot as they finish the regular season against Lincoln and Galileo.