The two city Catholic high schools in the Central Coast Section playoffs have outlooks and circumstances that could not be more different.
St. Ignatius, following its winningest season since 2006, is in the elite Open Division for the second time in school history, while Riordan, after going winless in West Catholic Athletic League for the second straight year, snuck into the Division III playoffs by winning a coin flip.
The sixth-seeded Wildcats (7-3) will head down to Salinas on Friday night to take on Monterey-area power Palma, the No. 3 seed and the owner of 11 CCS titles, including a Division IV championship in 2011.
The Chieftains (8-2) beat WCAL foe St. Francis in nonleague play, lost to currently undefeated Seaside, then went undefeated in the Monterey Bay League’s Gabilan Division to get into the Open Division playoffs.
Palma features at least two Division I college commits up front on its offensive and defensive lines, and junior running back Brandon Olivares has ran for 1,037 yards and 16 touchdowns.
“They’re a very good team,” St. Ignatius coach John Regalia said. “They’re playing championship football and went undefeated in their league, which is a good league. They’re good up front, especially, and they get off the ball well. That’s their strength.”
Riordan (3-7), the No. 7 seed in the Division III tournament, will also face a run-heavy attack in second-seeded Sobrato of Morgan Hill, which operates in a Wing T formation, on Saturday night at Live Oak High School in Morgan Hill.
The Bulldogs (7-3) have rushed for 2,652 yards and 26 touchdowns this season, led by senior Miguel Redmond’s 1,135 yards, but also feature an efficient quarterback in senior Michael Bocksnick, who has averaged nearly 20 yards per completion this season and has totaled 1,386 yards and has a 15-2 touchdown-to-interception ratio.
“They’re trying to run the football — well, they are running the football,” Riordan coach Richard Sweeney said of Sobrato. “They are explosive on offense.”
Sweeney said that he has no qualms about the Crusaders backing into the playoffs on the strength of an undefeated nonleague season and the section’s new, weighted system that favors playoff entries for WCAL teams, but was most relieved to play a nonleague opponent in the playoffs, even though third-seeded Valley Christian likely looms if they get to the second round. Sweeney has also brought up 12 junior varsity players to increase the Riordan roster size to 36.