By Jeremy Balan
Mission High School’s defense has yet to allow a touchdown in Academic Athletic Association play this season, and in their signature 66-6 win over Galileo last week, Washington had a front-row seat.
The entire Washington team, which will host the Bears in a battle of the remaining undefeated AAA teams on Friday, came out to watch Mission’s rout of Galileo last Thursday.
“I don’t get out to scout too many games, so we all went,” said Washington head coach Karl Finley. “They’re a good, tough team and they’ve been good for the past several years. This year they definitely have some big, athletic kids.”
Last year, this game decided the regular-season AAA champ, with Mission edging Washington 16-13.
The Eagles wound up winning the ultimate prize, however, by beating Balboa on Turkey Day, a title that has eluded Mission since 1954.
“Most people were thinking we were going to have a rematch last year and it didn’t happen,” Finley said. “Our ultimate goal is not Friday, but we still need to handle our business.”
The Bears took the top seed into the playoffs, but fell to Balboa in the semifinals.
“The kids thought they were unbeatable last year and we got beat,” said Mission coach Joe Albano.
Both teams have a bit to prove, as Mission has yet to play a AAA team in the top half of the league, while Washington went down 14-0 to winless Burton last week before rallying for a 28-14 win.
“We were kinda out of sync,” Finley said. “I can’t take anything away from Burton, but after it got to 14-0 we got some kinks out. It was a great game for us, because we came back to win. For us, it was good to see we could overcome some adversity.”
For Mission, not having a letdown after such a dominating game is a top priority.
“It will be interesting to see this week how we react when we get hit around a little bit,” Albano said. “Our season is really just beginning right now. If we lose this game, we have to take on Lincoln with the same record and they’re not an easy football team. We can drop to third in a blink of an eye.”
There’s no doubt of the playoff implications, but the game will likely come down to the AAA’s most explosive offense, led by big-play Washington running backs Jamie McHenry and Lajarie Mabrey, versus its most dominant defense, featuring Mission linebacker Algeron Malbrough and defensive end Darius Grays.
“We can’t let up the big play. If they’re going to score on us, we want them to earn it,” Albano said. “We need to run the ball and stop the run. That’s just the basics. That’s the AAA. It’s not brain surgery.”
Lowell @ Lincoln, 3 p.m.
Lincoln (3-4, 3-1) escaped an upset against Marshall last week, but Lowell (3-3, 2-2) wasn’t so fortunate, falling to previously winless Balboa.
Still, the winner of this game will take hold of third place in the league standings.
Sacred Heart Cathedral @ Valley Christian (San Jose), 7 p.m.
After Sacred Heart’s win over rival St. Ignatius last week, the Irish (5-2, 2-2) should be in the Central Coast Section playoffs, but a win on the road against the Warriors (3-4, 2-2) would solidify their postseason bid.
Riordan vs. Mitty (San Jose) @ Foothill College (Los Altos Hills), 7 p.m.
The Crusaders (1-6, 0-4) will travel south to take on the Monarchs (4-2-1, 2-1-1), which were handed their first WCAL loss by Bellarmine last week.
St. Francis (Mountain View) @ St. Ignatius, 1 p.m.
The Wildcats (2-4-1, 0-3-1) will look to bounce back from a disheartening loss to rival Sacred Heart Cathedral last week and will have to improve their run defense against the Lancers (3-4, 2-2) and standout running back Durell Crooks, who has run for over 100 yards in each of his last five games.
Galileo @ Balboa, 2 p.m.
Balboa (2-5, 1-3) appeared to be destined to miss the playoffs, but kept postseason hopes alive with an upset of Lowell last week.
With another Lowell loss and a Balboa win over the Lions (3-4, 1-3), the Bucs would be in a tie for the fourth and final playoff spot.
Galileo, even with a win, could be on the outside looking in with a head-to-head loss to Lowell.
Marshall @ Burton, 2 p.m.
The Pumas (0-5, 0-4) gave Washington a scare last week and will look to spoil rival Marshall’s (2-5, 1-3) playoff hopes.
Stuart Hall vs. Anderson Valley (Boonville) @ Kezar, 7 p.m.
The Knights (5-2) will look to rally back from two consecutive losses against a stout Anderson Valley (6-1) squad in the first 8-man football game of Kezar Stadium’s storied history.