By Jeremy Balan
It was supposed to be an Academic Athletic Association showdown.
The best AAA offense in Galileo versus the best defense in Mission. Something would have to give.
The winner of the game on Friday will still take over first place in the AAA, but the matchup took a considerable hit when it was announced that Galileo standout senior running back Quincy Nelson could miss the remainder of the season with an MCL injury.
Nelson’s 1,602 yards rushing ranks sixth in the state and his 21 rushing touchdowns rank ninth. He already has two 300-yard rushing performances on the season.
Nelson will have an MRI this week, but even with perfect circumstances, he will likely only be able to return for the AAA championship game on Thanksgiving, if the Lions advance to that point.
“He got hurt in the Marshall game [last week], but finished the game on adrenaline,” said Galileo head coach Mark Huynh. “The MCL isn’t torn, but at this point, he’s probably going to be out for the season.”
Even though Mission’s chances of winning improve without Nelson on the field, the Bears (4-3, 4-0) were looking forward to the test. The Bears’ defense has shut out AAA opponents three times this season and has allowed only 13 points in league play.
“To be honest, it’s too bad. He’s a talented kid and you hate to see anybody hurt,” Mission head coach Joe Albano said. “My kids wanted to face the challenge. We were really excited.”
Still, Galileo (5-3, 4-0) is not without weapons. Huynh said that the Lions will have to rely on increased offensive contributions from senior quarterback Jonathan Lu, fullback Young Ene and backup running back David Milburn, who played for Mission as a sophomore two years ago.
But what Huynh is concerned with most is the Lions’ defensive effort, which has struggled at times this season.
“[Losing Nelson] is going to hurt us a lot. We’ve averaged over 30 points [per game]. That’s going to come down for sure,” Huynh said. “Our defense needs to step up, and if they do, we’ll have a chance to repeat [as AAA champions].”
Mission will look to get its running game going against the Galileo defense, specifically from senior running back Devonta Gaines. The Bears’ running game struggled against Lincoln last week, but Mission junior quarterback Davon Hargraves picked up the slack, passing for 144 yards and three touchdowns.
“I love my run game, don’t get me wrong, but I understand how coach [Huynh] likes to load the box,” Albano said. “When they load the box, we’re going to try to take advantage.”
Galileo’s quest to repeat had been going as planned until this point, but without Nelson, the matchups against Mission this week and Washington on Nov. 11 will be considerable hurdles.
“It’s going to be a true test,” Huynh said.
Burton @ Lincoln, 3 p.m.
With games against Galileo and Lowell on the horizon, this could be one of Lincoln’s (0-8, 0-4) last opportunities to get a win this season. Burton (2-5, 1-3) needs a win to keep slim playoff hopes alive.
Marshall @ Lowell, 3 p.m.
Lowell (0-6, 0-4), like Lincoln, is all but mathematically eliminated from any postseason possibilities, but will look to get its first win against Marshall (1-6, 1-3).
Sacred Heart Cathedral vs. St. Francis (Mountain View) @ Kezar Stadium, 7 p.m.
The Fightin’ Irish (4-3, 1-3) likely need to win two of their final three games of the season to secure a CCS playoff bid and St. Francis may be a good candidate for a loss. The Lancers (3-3-1, 1-3) were routed last week by Mitty 42-14.
Riordan @ Bellarmine (San Jose) @ San Jose City College, 7 p.m.
The Crusaders’ (1-6, 1-3) struggles figure to continue against a powerful Bellarmine (6-1, 3-1) squad. After struggling to stop Sacred Heart Cathedral’s running game last week, Bellarmine’s run-heavy option attack will be a considerable challenge for Riordan.
St. Ignatius @ Valley Christian (San Jose), 7:30 p.m.
Recent performances in league play make it difficult to imagine St. Ignatius (1-5-1, 0-4) knocking off powerhouse Valley Christian (7-0, 4-0) who beat previously unbeaten Bellarmine last week. The Wildcats haven’t scored in their last two losses to Mitty and Serra.
Woodside Priory (Portola Valley) vs. Stuart Hall @ Treasure Island, 1 p.m.
Stuart Hall (3-3, 2-2) and Woodside (3-4, 2-3) are the only Catholic schools playing 8-man football in the Bay Area and will hope to start a new rivalry when they play for the inaugural “Oratum et Cor” Trophy.
Washington @ Balboa, 2:30 p.m.
Both likely AAA playoff teams, currently tied for third place, the winner of this game could challenge for first place, while the loser will probably settle into the fourth seed. With two potent offenses, the game could turn into a shootout. Washington (5-2, 3-1) has averaged over 28 points per game and Balboa (3-5, 3-1) has averaged over 33.