SF Preps: St. Ignatius bout with Serra has title implications

Riordan set for grand opening, Balboa faces Lincoln in battle of AAA unbeatens

The final week of the regular season in Central Coast Section football is upon us, and St. Ignatius has a chance at a share of a league title for the first time since 2006.

Serra (9-0, 6-0 WCAL) @ St. Ignatius (7-2, 5-1), Saturday, 1 p.m.: The Wildcats haven’t beaten the Padres since 2005, and their last four meetings have ended with a running clock, but there’s no better SI team to break that trend than this one.

The Wildcats’ only West Catholic Athletic League loss this season was to Valley Christian, and their 14-point win over Mitty last week — even without injured star quarterback Teddye Buchanan — was a wider margin than Serra’s victory over the Monarchs. Buchanan is likely to be back on the field Saturday.

A win would split the league title between the St. Ignatius and Padres, while depriving Serra of an outright title. That would be even more special for Jackson Canady, Danny Ryan and Zach Taylor-Smith, the trio of basketball players on the Wildcat roster. When the two schools met in the Jungle Game at Serra back in February, St. Ignatius blew a 20-point halftime lead, then had to watch the Padres storm the court in a celebration that saw Serra players and students harass SI fans, culminating in physical altercations between the two student sections as they exited the gym.

Ryan has already put together a memorable senior season, eclipsing current Seattle Mariners outfielder Mitch Haniger’s WCAL single-season receiving record with a game still remaining. That being said, he’ll have one of his biggest tests on Saturday against a Serra secondary that includes Washington State commit Jackson Lataimua, Terence Loville and Nate Sanchez. In the past, though, Ryan’s best games have come under pressure, including a 10-reception performance against Valley Christian.

Loville and Sanchez are also outstanding receivers, which has made it easy for sophomore quarterback Dominique Lampkin to get comfortable. Lampkin made his first career start last week — after starter Daylin McLemore broke his collarbone in an Oct. 26 win over Sacred Heart Cathedral — and rose to the occasion to beat Valley Christian, throwing for 85 yards and running for 75. For all that talent, though, Serra’s best player is arguably defensive end Nusi Malani, a 6-foot-6 monster of an edge rusher whose offers include Arizona State, Boise State and Nebraska. He had a sack in last week’s win and teamed up with Marcellus Eison for another as the Padres pitched their third shutout in WCAL play. They’ll combine with Sioeli Helu to make for a huge challenge for the SI line, which is led by new UCLA commit Beau Gardner, who pledged to the Bruins as a long snapper.

Stanfel Cup: Sacred Heart Cathedral (0-9, 0-6 WCAL) @ Riordan (2-7, 0-6), Saturday, 1:15 p.m.: Mayer Family Field’s grand opening will see the end of a dubious streak. Sacred Heart Cathedral hasn’t won a game in nearly a full calendar year, while Riordan has lost 16 straight WCAL contests. The Fightin’ Irish have won the last three head-to-head meetings, including a 38-0 trouncing last year. In that game, Cian Dowling threw for 151 yards and a touchdown while 5-foot-5 Evan Dere ran for 70 yards and two touchdowns in place of the injured Anthony Heard.

Balboa (4-4, 4-0 AAA) @ Lincoln (6-1, 4-0), Saturday, 2 p.m.: A monster nonleague schedule has paid off tremendously for the Buccaneers, who have met little resistance in league play thus far, though their final two games are against last year’s top two teams. They return to the site of their playoff defeat last year, a rain-soaked 7-0 loss to the Mustangs. Lincoln’s defense has been nothing short of outstanding this year, allowing a touchdown for the first time in 16 quarters last week at the end of a blowout win over Burton, but Balboa has found new life on offense behind Raiden Thien-Jones. After scoring just 14 points in their first four games, the Bucs have averaged 40 points per game in league play, with Thien-Jones throwing for two touchdowns and running for a third in last week’s 21-10 victory over Lowell.

Washington (0-8, 0-5 AAA) @ Burton (3-4, 1-3), Saturday, 2 p.m.: As expected, the Pumas fell to Lincoln last week, meaning they’ll need to win this week to effectively turn their season finale against Lowell into a play-in game for the AAA playoffs. Since starting off the season with blowout wins over Harker and Richmond, Burton has lost four of five, with all but one of those losses coming by at least 24 points. However, the Pumas did manage to make a game out of their defeat against Mission after getting into a three-score hole, showing that they do have the ability to hang with strong competition.

Galileo (1-7, 1-3 AAA) @ Lowell (3-4-1, 1-3), Friday, 2 p.m.: Despite losing their first seven games, the playoffs aren’t entirely out of the question for the Lions if they can win this week. They did lose to Burton, so they would need Lowell to beat the Pumas next week in that case, but their fate isn’t sealed despite a difficult first two months.

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By Al Saracevic