St. Ignatius faces stiff challenge in opener

There is no shortage of story lines in The City’s first week of football action, but the St. Ignatius-Marin Catholic game on Saturday at 1 p.m. stands out as the week’s premier matchup.

Visiting St. Ignatius will travel to Kentfield for a rematch of last season’s opener, when the Wildcats edged Marin Catholic 29-28.

Zac Schuller scored the go-ahead touchdown in the game, and Schuller, now a senior and St. Ignatius’ top returning rusher, will be key to a Wildcats victory. Schuller is also a starter on defense and special teams.

“We’re hoping to lean on him as well as our other seniors, not only because of the position he plays, but because he’s a senior,” St. Ignatius coach Steve Bluford said.

St. Ignatius went on to complete a 4-6 season, but played nearly every team in the cut-throat West Catholic Athletic League tough.

“Our focus this year has to be in the fourth quarter,” said Schuller at practice over the summer. “We’re going to push as a team at the end of games and really finish as a team. Last year, there wasn’t as much energy.”

Marin Catholic won the CIF-North Coast Section Division III championship in 2009 and didn’t lose another game until its loss to Serra of Gardena in the Division III state championship game.

“We know they’re really good and excited to play us,” Bluford said. “They’re probably more anxious to play us now, considering the success they had last season.”

Friday's games

Galileo at Mills, 3:30 p.m.
Galileo, the defending Academic Athletic Association champions, will play its first game without quarterback and 2009 AAA player of the year Dylan Nelson, who graduated in the spring.

Senior Jonathan Lu, Nelson’s backup last season, will take over behind center this year.

“He’s getting there,” Galileo coach Mark Huynh said of the soft-spoken Lu. “Jonathan’s going to start building something there and hopefully will take command of the team.”

Galileo’s speedy secondary will be tested by a pass-heavy, spread Mills offense.

“The good thing is we have good, speedy senior defensive backs,” Huynh said.

Sacred Heart Cathedral at Terra Nova, 7 p.m.
In a reunion of sorts, Sacred Heart Cathedral coach John Lee will face off against Terra Nova coach Bill Gray, who hired Lee to his first varsity coaching job 21 years ago at Oceana High School.

Terra Nova had a 9-4 season in 2009, including a trip to the Central Coast Section Division III championship game, where it fell to Seaside.

The Tigers, however, will look to replace play-making quarterback Carl Cox, who graduated in the spring.

Burton at Hercules, 7 p.m.
The Pumas will look to improve their offense, which was shut out four times last season against a Hercules team that was hit or miss in 2009.

Mission at Tomales, 8 p.m.
The Bears ended up disbanding midway through last season and face a high-powered Tomales team.

Saturday’s games

Balboa vs. Kennedy at Washington (Fremont), Noon<br />The Bucs finished last year with two convincing wins and will look to carry that momentum into this season. Kennedy won last season’s meeting 22-7.

Dougherty Valley at Riordan, 2 p.m.
Fans should get a good sense of how first-year coach Bryan Blake’s rebuilding effort at Riordan is going with the Crusaders’ matchup against Dougherty Valley. The Wildcats went 2-8 in 2009 and were winless in Diablo Foothill Athletic League play, but Riordan may be tough to gauge, as it will be introducing entirely new schemes on both sides of the ball.

San Marin at Lincoln, 2 p.m.
The Mustangs begin their journey for a return trip to the Turkey Bowl in a non-league matchup against a San Marin club that finished 2-8 in 2009.

Marshall at Richmond, 5 p.m.
While Marshall’s only win last season came via forfeit, the Phoenix have a chance to start 2010 on a high note against an Oilers team that was outscored 399-102 in 2009.

Correspondent Josh Levine and staff writer Dylan Kruse contributed to this report. Preps sports coverage provided in partnership by The San Francisco Examiner and SanFranPreps.com.

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