Football: WCAL will provide considerable tests for City teams

From left, Sacred Heart Cathedral's Sean Murphy, St. Ignatius' Jacob Brisbane and Riordan's Ismael Orozco. (Photos by AJ Canaria and Tawnya Gray)

By Jeremy Balan

The three Catholic school football teams in the City had varying results in non-league play, but those records may hold little water approaching next week with the beginning of West Catholic Athletic League play.

The WCAL is generally acknowledged as one of the best high school leagues in the state in football, and San Francisco members St. Ignatius, Sacred Heart Cathedral and Archbishop Riordan figure to face uphill battles against a stable of Peninsula and South Bay powers.

The last outright WCAL title won by a City team was Riordan in 2000 (St. Ignatius split a league title with Serra in 2006). St. Ignatius’ only outright WCAL title came in the league’s inaugural season in 1967 and Sacred Heart Cathedral has never won a league title.

“You can’t avoid the talent in this league,” said Sacred Heart Cathedral head coach John Lee. “Every game is a battle, a meat-grinder. There’s no jokes there. Records go out the window.”

Lee and the Fightin’ Irish (3-0) have been the biggest early-season surprise in the City and remain San Francisco’s only remaining undefeated team behind an explosive offense.

The Irish are leading WCAL teams in nearly every offensive category, including total yardage (1479), rushing yards (855), passing yards (624), total touchdowns (18) and total points (125).

Sacred Heart jumps right into that “meat-grinder” in its league opener against 2009 co-league champ Archbishop Mitty of San Jose on the road. The Irish went 1-6 in the WCAL last year, but don’t plan on catching league teams by surprise.

“We saw coaches from other schools in the stands when we played Terra Nova and St. Mary’s, so we must be doing something right,” Lee said. “But at the same time, we’ve gone and watched the other schools in the league as well. It’s about respect.”

While the Irish have been hot from the start of the season, St. Ignatius (1-1-1) has been getting consistently better each week after a disheartening loss to Marin Catholic of Kentfield in its opener.

The Wildcats tied a solid Milpitas team in their second game and beat upstart Bishop O’Dowd of Oakland last week.

“We’ve been improving, without a doubt,” said St. Ignatius head coach Steve Bluford. “They were disappointed in their opening performance and they’re starting to play the way we expect them to. It’s good to see.”

St. Ignatius is led by dual-threat seniors Zac Shuller and Jacob Brisbane, who drive the Wildcats’ run-heavy attack as running backs, along with solid contributions on defense.

“They are team leaders,” Bluford said. “They work hard to inspire their teammates in their own ways, setting the example and setting the tone for the rest of the team.”

St. Ignatius and Sacred Heart enter league play on relative hot streaks, but non-league outcomes have been bleak for Riordan (0-3), which lost its first three games by a combined 155-61.

This season will undoubtedly be a rebuilding effort for Riordan head coach Bryan Blake, who has struggled with low numbers and key injuries early in the season.

“We’re low in numbers and we’re paying for that,” Blake said. “On the positive side our kids are growing and we’re laying the foundation for the future.”

The lone bright spot for the Crusaders has been explosive senior wide receiver A.J. Lewis, who leads the league in catches (11), receiving yards (329) and receiving touchdowns (4), along with filling holes in the Crusaders secondary as a safety and cornerback.

“He’s a big-time player,” Blake said. “Teams will rotate their coverage to him and he still finds a way to make the plays.”

All three teams enter the WCAL season at different stages of development, but one thing is certain — it won’t be easy.

“Our league is as good as there is in the state,” Blake said. “It’s seven games in a row, no byes, no breaks, no weak links.”

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  1. IC Stars says:

    This is the first time I’ve seen “Fightin’ Irish” and “explosive offense” in the same sentence.

  2. dro11 says:

    an “explosive offense” is easy to come by when playing schools on par with the little sisters of the poor.

  3. football wife says:

    @dro11…and the team you coach is???

  4. RABBIT says:

    football wife…………hmmmmmmmm, let me guess……… are the wife of ? NOT SI AND NOT RIORDAN……..

  5. Anonymous says:

    You’re pretty sharp for a rabbit. I would just like to know what gives dro11 the credentials in knowing who the football ‘little sisters of the poor” are? The games played were not easy teams. The WCAL no doubt be a battle week in and week out, but to discount the hard work these kids have been putting in on the field and in the weight room and basically call their wins easy?? Please!

  6. football wife says:

    You’re pretty sharp for a rabbit! I would just like to know what gives dro11 the credentials to say who the football “little sisters of the poor” are? The WCAL will be a constant battle week in and week out, but to discount their first 3 wins as easy? Please. Saying so discounts all the time the kids have put in on the field and in the weight room. Those games were close and could have gone either way.They earned those wins, they weren’t handed to them.

  7. RABBIT says:

    You’re pretty sharp for a rabbit!

    Yes, I am…………………THANKS!

  8. dro11 says:

    football wife – im not sure why you felt the need to equivocate preparation effort with opponent talent. they are two separate things and i have not belittled anyone’s effort. however it is not a reach to call shc’s pre-wcal schedule soft compared to every other team in the wcal.

    if they really are that good then we’ll all read about it this saturday morning.

  9. RABBIT says:

    The RABBIT agrees with dro 11, no disresepect to the players and staff at SH, but their pre WCAL schedule was SOFT, and if they are as good as you believe, we can all read about saturday morning.

  10. Seriously says:

    Does Lee think WCAL coaches don’t scout?. They are not sitting in the stands watching a 1-6 team taking notes on how to do things the right way. Lee’s wife should stay off messageboards. Riordan should worry about getting 1 win.

  11. football wife says:

    to seriously…seriously?? your scouting comment is ridiculous! i know I dont know everything about football, but I dont consider teams that went to the post season last year as soft. Thats all. As far as me staying off message boards…not likely. I am supportive and always will be to all the wcal teams not just sh. the wcal is the best league, and I know I may be biased in saying so. I will always want a wcal team to win when they are playing a non league team. it is just very frustrating to hear and read the comments from the people in the stands that do not put in the time with the kids with their monday morning quarterback comments. so “seriously”, maybe you’re right…i should stay off the message boards…

  12. fball415 says:

    Hey “Seriously”, lets not bring family into conversations. Lets not forgot who busts their asses day in and day out every morning and every afternoon practicing. Your comments arent productive neither helpful to what the WCAL has here. The Irish are a good team coming up this year and should have a productive season with their powerful offense. Lets not forget who is leading the league in statistics, I believe its the IRISH. Good day.

  13. jbalan says:

    I think we all should take a page out of fball425’s book… Let’s keep it civil and keep the personal attacks out of it… Please continue to post opinions, but make sure they contribute to the overall conversation… Thanks…

    As far as SHC goes, I think we’ll all find out a whole lot about just how much the Irish have on Friday night…

  14. SuPeR MaN says:

    1st of all why are people bringing up the 2009 SHC team when you should focus on the players that came on to the varsity team this year. These players were on JV last year with a 6-1 record and now all of them are on Varsity. So we really cant compare because its a whole new team but we should really pay attention to the players that came up instead of the old varsity teams where all of their seniors graduated. Its a whole new year people think about that.

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