SF Preps: Welcome to semifinal week

Lincoln and Lowell meet again, as Mission gets its second straight crack at Balboa

The Central Coast Section and Academic Athletic Association both have semifinal games this week, and all three involving City teams are rematches from foes that squared off in the regular season, including one game between teams that played just last week.

CCS Division I Semifinals: #3 St. Ignatius (9-2) @ #2 Valley Christian (10-1), Friday, 7 p.m.: The stars have aligned to give the Wildcats a shot to avenge their lone WCAL loss of the season, and play for a section championship for the first time since 2014.

In that line league loss, SI led Valley Christian 7-3 after three quarters on a Teddye Buchanan touchdown pass to Danny Ryan, but saw the Warriors finally find the end zone twice in the fourth, winning 17-7 with a pair of Michael Corini touchdowns set up by 43-yard completions by quarterback Cory Taylor — one to Deven Vanderbilt and the other to freshman Jurrion Dickey.

While Valley Christian is known to punish teams on the offensive and defensive lines, there’s no shortage of playmakers like Dickey, either. Defensive back Kavir Bains — who picked off a deep pass by Buchanan late in the fourth quarter of the teams’ first meeting — will be playing with Buchanan next year at UC Davis, while Moon Ashby will be in the secondary at Washington State.

The Warriors have boasted one of the best defenses in Northern California this season, allowing no more than 12 points to any opponent, but they’ll have to once again face Ryan — who had 10 catches in the teams’ last meeting — and they’ll have to deal with the two-headed rushing attack in Joe Celentano and Jahsai Shannon, who returned to the Wildcats from Las Vegas just after they faced Valley Christian.

AAA Semifinals: #3 Mission (4-5-1) @ #2 Balboa (5-5), Thursday, 2 p.m.: Defenses ruled the day last Friday as the Buccaneers and Bears were reluctant to show too much of their hands, knowing they’d meet again just six days later. The teams combined for 229 penalty yards and five turnovers in a 14-7 Balboa win, setting the stage for what should be a much cleaner game on Thursday. Mission did go deep into the playbook for a fake punt that gained 65 yards but struggled to move the ball otherwise, scoring only on a Julian Milton pick-six. The Bears should be much stronger offensively this week with the return of running back Noah Lee from a broken hand.

AAA Semifinals: #4 Lowell (5-4-1) @ #1 Lincoln (8-1), Thursday, 2 p.m.: Having already lost a regular season meeting 35-0 and entering the playoffs as heavy underdogs against the defending state champions, Lowell will enter Thursday’s game with nothing to lose.

The Cardinals’ first meeting with Lincoln saw Lowell shut the Mustangs out through the first quarter, but eventually fall victim to Luis Contreras, who ran for 234 yards and four touchdowns on the day as Lincoln recorded one of its four shutouts on the season.

Danny Chan and his staff will have to prepare for a different Lincoln offense than the one they saw back on Oct. 26, as Owen Creed played quarterback that afternoon. Jonas Francovich has taken some of the responsibility to direct the offense since then for the Mustangs, throwing a pair of touchdowns to James Walsh in last week’s 46-0 win over Galileo.

Like the Mustangs, Lowell will also be able to keep the opposing defense on its toes by utilizing different passers in sophomore Reese Miller and senior Ronald Pollick, who mainly plays running back but can also throw when called on. Pollick had all three touchdowns and the game-sealing interception in last week’s 22-20 win over Burton, one that earned his team a rematch with the defending champs. After the Lowell administration forced the Cardinals to forfeit last year’s meeting with Lincoln, they can look at Thursday’s contest as something of a makeup game, one that they’ve earned by reaching the postseason for the first time since 2013.

Northern California Division III Water Polo Semifinals: #5 Visalia-El Diamante (25-6) @ #1 St. Ignatius (12-16), Thursday, 5 p.m. at City College: Fresh off a high-scoring 23-14 win over Atascadero, the Wildcats will only have 48 hours to rest up before welcoming in a foe from the Central Valley that also has a recent win over Atascadero, beating the Greyhounds 9-4 on Saturday to win the Central Section Division 2 championship.

While SI has been lighting it up offensively in the playoffs, the Miners have played phenomenal defense, allowing just 9.4 goals per game this season. Tuesday’s 14-12 road win over Merced-El Capitan saw the Miners allow double-digit goals for the first time all month. The Wildcats will have to not only penetrate El Diamante’s defense but slow down Colin Chase and Robert Perez, who have each broken 100 goals on the season.

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