Football: St. Ignatius-Marin Catholic is opening week’s top matchup

St. Ignatius seniors (from left) Zac Schuller, Jeff Farlow and senior RB Jacob Brisbane will face their first test on Saturday against Marin Catholic. (Photo by AJ Canaria)

By Jeremy Balan

There is no shortage of story lines in The City’s opening week of football action, but the St. Ignatius-Marin Catholic game on Saturday 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 Shuller scored the go-ahead touchdown in the game, and Schuller, now a senior and St. Ignatius’ top returning rusher, will be a 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,” said St. Ignatius head coach Steve Bluford.

St. Ignatius went on to complete a 4-6 season, but played nearly every team in the cutthroat West Catholic Athletic League’s elite 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 CIF 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.

Galileo @ Mills (Millbrae)
Friday, 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 season.

“He’s getting there,” Galileo head 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 @ Terra Nova (Pacifica)
Friday, 7 p.m.

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

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

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

Dougherty Valley (San Ramon) @ Riordan
Saturday, 2 p.m.

We 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.

Other games:
Burton @ Hercules, Friday, 7 p.m.
Mission @ Tomales, Friday, 8 p.m.
Balboa vs. Kennedy (Fremont) @ Washington (Fremont), Saturday, Noon
San Marin (Novato) @ Lincoln, Saturday, 2 p.m.
Marshall @ Richmond, Saturday, 5 p.m.

Josh Levine contributed to this report

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