McKinley Oliver (7) of Mission runs at Galileo on Oct. 5, 2018. (Ryan Gorcey / S.F. Examiner)

SF Preps Football Preview: Playoffs coming into focus in this week’s prep football matchups

Balboa (5-1, 2-0 AAA) vs. Mission (3-4, 1-2 AAA), Friday, 2 p.m. at Kezar Stadium

The third and fourth Academic Athletic Association playoff spots may come down to this one. Assuming Lincoln and Galileo take care of business moving forward, and as long as teams continue to clean up against Lowell and Washington, it’ll be Balboa, Burton and Mission gunning for the last two spots.

Balboa picked up a key 47-28 win at Burton last week, meaning that if the Buccaneers handle this one, they’ll be sitting pretty even with games still left against Galileo and Lincoln. Mission lost to both the Lions and Mustangs, but with the Bucs and Pumas still left on the schedule, the Bears certainly control their own fate. Not only will the winner be in position to reach the playoffs, they’ll have the inside track to at least the third seed, which would allow them to avoid a first-round matchup with a Lincoln team that’s run the table thus far.

Gil Haskell Trophy: St. Ignatius (1-7, 1-4 WCAL) vs. Riordan (1-7, 0-5), Saturday, 7 p.m. at Kezar Stadium

It’s hard to believe a game this late in the season between teams with just two combined wins could factor into the playoff picture, but that’s exactly what’s at stake when the Crusaders and Wildcats get together under the lights on Saturday.

Should SI win this one and close the season with a victory over Bellarmine, a 3-7 record — combined with an insane strength of schedule — could be enough to get the Wildcats the final at-large bid in Division III. In order to do that, though, they’ll have to overcome their Kezar demons. SI has lost three straight games to City rivals at the venue, including an overtime loss to Riordan last year in which Je’Lani Clark hauled in the winning touchdown with a dramatic one-handed catch.

The Wildcats won’t have to worry about Clark now, as the junior has chosen to focus on basketball, but Riordan still has a pair of impressive juniors in quarterback Adham Abdelghani and running back Jalen Camp (102 carries-451 yards, 4 TDs). Wide receiver Marcus Williams (24 catches-482 yards, 6 TDs) is a major big-play threat, and although the Crusaders have been shut out in their past two games, it’s an offense that doesn’t lack for dynamic weapons.

Burton (5-2, 1-2 AAA) @ Lincoln (7-0, 3-0), Saturday, 2 p.m.

DeSean Crawford ran for five touchdowns in last week’s 52-18 win over Galileo, meaning Lincoln’s biggest challenge left in the regular season is to avoid getting complacent. The Mustangs have won every game by at least two scores, and with a playoff spot all but officially sealed, their next hope is to clinch the regular-season title, which can be done next week by beating Balboa. As for the Pumas, they’ve performed well overall but have struggled against the top teams in the league, but if they can reverse that trend and pull off a major road upset, a postseason berth would be well within reach.

Serra (5-3, 4-1 WCAL) @ Sacred Heart Cathedral (5-3, 3-2), Friday, 7 p.m. at Kezar Stadium

The Padres have won 14 straight head-to-head meetings, including all 10 since Sacred Heart Cathedral rejoined the WCAL in 2008, but there’s no question that the Fightin’ Irish are getting stronger and stronger each year. As Serra has returned towards full strength, the rushing attack features a mix of Luke Bottari, E.J. Lahlouh and Nate Sanchez, but the bulk of the offensive damage is still done with Bottari’s arm. Terence Loville has been one of Bottari’s favorite targets, and he hauled in four passes for 66 yards, including a touchdown, in last week’s win over St. Ignatius. Both the Padres and Irish have beaten SI and Riordan, meaning the winner of Friday’s clash will be the undisputed king of the northern half of the WCAL. On paper, Serra has the upper hand, with a much more comfortable win over St. Ignatius, but running back Anthony Heard (114 carries-766 yards, 6 TDs) and the rest of the Irish won’t go easily.

Tamalpais (6-3, 3-3 MCAL) @ Marin Catholic (6-3, 4-0), Saturday, 2 p.m.

Even though every team gets fired up to play Marin Catholic, few in the MCAL are able to hang with the Wildcats. Even with an especially young team, Marin Catholic has rolled to five straight wins. Freshman quarterback Michael Ingrassia looks like the next great QB to come through the program, as he racked up another three touchdowns in a 41-0 win over Drake, while sophomore Matteo Perez ran for 175 yards. The Red-Tailed Hawks are coming off a heartbreaking 21-20 loss last Saturday to San Marin.

Galileo (6-2, 3-1 AAA) @ Washington (1-7, 0-3), Friday, 3 p.m.

If the Lions have any frustrations after last week’s defeat at Lincoln, Friday provides what should be an opportunity to get them out. Washington was shut out for a fourth straight time last week, this time at the hands of previously winless Lowell. Over the last two years, Galileo has made a habit out of responding well to losses, and after suffering a league defeat last year, the Lions rattled off seven straight wins to close the season, racing to their state title. That included a 66-0 rout of Washington. The Eagles have been shut out in this matchup each of the last two years.

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