By Jeremy Balan
Its first two games couldn’t have been more different, but Sacred Heart Cathedral is on the path to clearing its first hurdle — sweeping its non-league schedule.
Before the brutal West Catholic Athletic League football season begins, a non-league sweep is almost essential for entrance in the Central Coast Section playoffs.
But the final leg of that schedule, Jefferson, is no pushover. The Indians went 8-2 in the regular season last year before falling to eventual CCS champion Terra Nova 21-19 in the playoffs.
“This Jefferson team has some athletes and some ballplayers that can flat-out run,” said Sacred Heart head coach John Lee. “When we watched the film [of Jefferson’s game against Milpitas], they were down, but they fought back.”
A historic win last week, in which the Irish returned a state-record five fumbles for touchdowns on defense, may have been a detriment to the first-team offense, which only played a handful of series in the first half of the Irish’s 56-7 rout of St. Mary’s before the second team took over in the second half.
“You don’t expect to go into a game and get five scoop-and-scores from five different guys,” Lee said. “We still don’t have our game legs yet. We don’t have those intangibles, where we don’t panic and have confidence that we can adjust to [what the other defense is doing].”
The Irish offense may not have had much playing time against St. Mary’s, but Lee still wants to see progress in ball control and long, sustained scoring drives, while continuing to force turnovers on defense.
“We want ball control, to eat the clock and to finish drives, that is the key,” Lee said.
Sacred Heart may be coming into the game hot, but Jefferson is entering the game on one of the lowest notes any team can.
After a fight late in the Milpitas game in the first week of the season, so many Jefferson players were suspended that the Indians were forced to forfeit their game against Pittsburg last week.
“Last week was pretty weird. It was nice to get back on track and back on schedule in practice on Monday,” said Jefferson head coach Ako Poti. “The kids are excited and know the consequences we’ve laid out, so that won’t happen again. We just want to play good football and that’s all I can ask.”
A few players will still be missing due to what Poti calls “in-house trouble,” but not for consequences over the fight.
“The kids can’t wait to get out on the field and get that melee out of our system,” Poti said.
The Irish are well aware of what happened to Jefferson in the opening week and have no intention of giving into the temptations of the trash talk that is often overheard on the field.
“We addressed that with our players,” Lee said. “Just don’t fall into the trap of chirping. Don’t let them get into our head. Just play football and play four quarters.”
Mission vs. Drake (San Anselmo) @ Kezar Stadium, 7 p.m.
Galileo and Lowell may be the only remaining AAA teams with undefeated records, but no other public school has been more impressive than the Bears (1-1) early in the year. Up next is Drake (1-1), which beat Mission 25-6 last season.
Balboa @ Analy (Sebastopol), 7 p.m.
Despite losing their two best players from last season, the Bucs (1-1) have showed early on that their run to the AAA championship was no fluke, with close games against Kennedy and Oakland Tech. Analy (1-1) may be a different story, however, as the Tigers thumped a solid San Marin team last week and beat Balboa 37-6 last season.
St. Ignatius @ Menlo-Atherton, 7 p.m.
After two home games to open the season, the Wildcats (1-1) hit the road to face the Bears (1-1), which blew out El Camino in Week 0, but dropped their next game to a solid Los Gatos squad.
Marshall @ Bethel (Vallejo), 7 p.m.
The Phoenix (1-1) will hit the road for the third consecutive week, this time a 35-mile trip to Vallejo to face the Jaguars (2-1), which have won their last two games against Fairfield and Montgomery.
Stuart Hall @ Alma Heights (Pacifica), 1 p.m.
The Knights (2-0) are off to a blazing start and should handle the Eagles (0-2), which have lost their last nine games.
Riordan @ St. Mary’s (Albany), 1:30 p.m.
After two weeks where the Crusaders were solid underdogs, Riordan will be a considerable favorite against the Panthers (0-2), which have lost their first two games by a combined score of 116-32.
El Camino (South San Francisco) @ Lincoln, 2 p.m.
The early season has been rough on the Mustangs (0-2) and likely won’t get any easier against the Colts (1-1) which handed Washington a 10-point loss last week.
Lowell @ Redwood (Larkspur), 2 p.m.
The Cardinals (1-0) have had three weeks to relish their inspiring, come-from-behind 21-20 win over Bret Harte in their opener, but will now have to take on a Giants (1-1) team that shut them out 18-0 last season.
Oakland @ Washington, 2 p.m.
Mistakes were an issue for the Eagles (0-1) against El Camino last week, and they will have to be eliminated against the Wildcats (0-1), which Washington beat 35-28 last season.