By Jeremy Balan
Many San Francisco high school sports rivalries have trophies that are up for grabs.
Washington and Lincoln football play for the Bell, Mission and O’Connell boys soccer play for the Yao Cup, Jewish Community plays a series of games for the annual Kiddush Cup against Kehillah and, most notably, St. Ignatius and Sacred Heart Cathedral play for the Bruce-Mahoney Trophy.
But few, if any, carry the emotional story of the Stanfel Cup, which goes to the winner of Sacred Heart Cathedral and Riordan’s annual football game.
The trophy is named for Nick Stanfel, who played and coached at Riordan, and was coaching at Sacred Heart Cathedral when he died of brain cancer in 1992.
Both current Sacred Heart Cathedral head coach John Lee and Riordan head coach Bryan Blake were on the Irish’s coaching staff at the time and the impression Stanfel left is a lasting one.
“It’s an honor to play a game in memory of a great guy who died too early,” Lee said. “It’s something that’s dear to me.”
Lee played with Stanfel at College of San Mateo and considered him one of his closest friends.
“When he told me [he had cancer], he was matter-of-fact about it. This is how I’m going to deal with it. He never complained once,” Lee said. “I rarely saw my father cry, but he broke down at the kitchen table when I told him [Stanfel] died.”
Blake, who was a junior varsity coach at Sacred Heart at the time, actually got called up to the varsity squad after Stanfel’s death.
“It goes to speak for the kind of guy he was,” Blake said. “He’s been gone for 18 years, but he’s still at the forefront of our memories and that will never go away. He’s one of those guys you try to model yourself after.”
The stories about the good-natured, practical joking Stanfel are nearly endless and several members of both coaching staffs have connections to him.
Still, the trophy is awarded to the winner of a football game, and this year’s version is not one without potential implications.
Sacred Heart Cathedral (3-3, 0-3) can’t lose to Riordan if they want to hold on to hopes of a Central Coast Section postseason bid, and the Crusaders (1-5, 1-2), who upset St. Ignatius two weeks ago, will look to pull off another shocker Friday.
Both teams have big-play threats on offense in Riordan’s A.J. Lewis and Sacred Heart Cathedral’s backfield duo of quarterback Sean Murphy and Valentino Miles, but the game may come down to what team controls possession best.
“We need to do a better job of controlling the ball and keeping our defense off the field.” Lee said. “We can’t let them play keep-away.”
Sacred Heart Cathedral will be a considerable favorite, but as St. Ignatius learned two weeks prior, that often doesn’t mean much in a rivalry game.
“They definitely have athletes,” Lee said. “We’re certainly not looking past them. Most teams get to play one rivalry game for a trophy, but we get to play two. It’s a special thing.”
Lincoln @ Mission, 2:30 p.m.
Mission’s (3-3, 3-0) unlikely run atop the AAA should continue against the Mustangs (0-7, 0-3) who have been outscored 278-61 this season. After an upset over Washington last week, the stout Bears’ defense could be dominant against a struggling Lincoln offense.
Lowell @ Balboa, 3 p.m.
Balboa’s (2-5, 2-1) dominating 54-0 win against Lincoln last week puts the Bucs into prime position for the AAA’s final playoff spot. The Bucs still need to win as many games as possible, including over Lowell (0-5, 0-3) who was all-but eliminated from playoff contention with a loss to Galileo last week.
Galileo vs. Marshall @ School of the Arts, 3 p.m.
Marshall (1-5, 1-2) got its first win since 2004 against Lincoln two weeks ago, but after a 40-36 loss to Burton last week, it’s hard to think the Phoenix can upset Galileo (4-3, 3-0), which has had its way with league opponents this season.
St. Ignatius @ Serra, 7 p.m.
Without a miraculous turnaround, St. Ignatius (1-4-1) will not come close to a CIF-Central Coast Section playoff spot this year. Serra (4-2, 2-1) will be looking for its third-consecutive WCAL win after wins over Sacred Heart Cathedral and St. Francis in the previous two weeks.
Stuart Hall vs. Cornerstone Christian (Antioch) @ Treasure Island, 1 p.m. CANCELED
The Knights (2-3, 1-2) will receive a win by forfeit from Cornerstone (0-6, 0-3), which won’t be able to field a team due to multiple injuries.
Burton @ Washington, 2:30 p.m.
After an upset loss to Mission, Washington (4-2, 2-1) should get back on track against Burton (2-4, 1-2). But don’t count the Burton out entirely. With their win over Marshall last week, the Pumas have put up 40 or more points in each of their two wins and played Mission tough in a 16-0 loss two weeks ago.