Football Preview: Mission looking to overcome Turkey Day hangover

Mission seniors (from left) Armani McFarland, Antoine Porter and Mane Fale will look to win the Bears’ first back-to-back AAA championship since 1929-1930. (Photo by Devin Chen)

By Jeremy Balan

A year ago, the Mission High School football team was highly motivated.

A loss to Balboa in the first round of the playoffs in 2010, after an undefeated league season, led to Mission’s first Academic Athletic Association football championship in 57 years last season.

With a key core of graduating seniors long gone, the attitude is significantly different at summer practice on 18th street.

Like the bloated, sleepy feeling after a big Thanksgiving dinner, the Bears are experiencing a Turkey Day hangover.

Summer practice participation hasn’t exactly been encouraging and Mission head coach Joe Albano has not been satisfied with the group’s dedication.

Mission lost a load of talent to graduation, but added Riordan transfer Armani McFarland, who may be the preseason favorite to win AAA Player of the Year. (Photo by Doug Ko)

“There are the makings of a good team, but they need to decide they want to do it,” Albano said. “Last year’s team had strong seniors, who, after that playoff loss, used that momentum to carry them through their senior year. This group is a little bit different. They’re coming off their championship and I’m still trying to figure them out.”

The pieces missing, most glaringly at running back and linebacker (all of the starting linebackers from last season have graduated), haven’t been entirely replaced, but the Bears will still have one of the most talented groups in the AAA.

At quarterback and safety will be senior Antoine Porter, who scored the championship-clinching touchdown on Turkey Day last season as a wide receiver, and is a standout point guard for the basketball team.

Porter was a junior varsity quarterback, was Davon Hargraves’ backup last season and is also surrounded by a group that has played with him since his junior varsity days.

“This is the JV team I played with, so I know all of these kids,” Porter said. “The young ones, we’re just trying to get them up to speed.”

Maybe the quickest player in the league, Porter will be a threat to throw and run, and will also be aided by Riordan transfer Armani McFarland.

McFarland was the only Riordan player with more than 60 rushing yards last season (he led the team with 483 yards on 103 carries). Listed at 6-foot and 190 pounds on Riordan’s roster last season, he had breakout games against Mitty (156 yards and two touchdowns) and St. Ignatius (91 yards on 13 carries).

Now in a different league and with four returning starters on the Bears’ offensive line, McFarland feels he can have a standout year.

“I definitely believe I can be a star, if not the best player in this league,” McFarland said. “Coming from the [West Catholic Athletic League], it’s a tough league, and I did a lot and accomplished a lot. Coming into a league that isn’t as good, I feel I can dominate.”

There’s also that non-league game the Bears will play at Riordan on Sept. 15.

“I feel like I have something to prove,” McFarland said of the matchup with Riordan. “I want to beat them by a lot and show them that without me, they’re not good. I’m going to run till my wheels fall off.”

McFarland, Fale and Porter will follow in the footsteps of a senior group that was highly motivated in 2011. (Photo by Devin Chen)

Both Porter and McFarland will rely on the offensive line, which Albano says is the team’s greatest strength, anchored by senior center Mane Fale, who will also be starting at defensive tackle.

“This is my family,” Fale said. “They’ve been through everything with me. They’re like my brothers and I’ve got to protect them.”

But even the players notice a difference from seasons past. They agree the feeling around the team has changed, but still feel confident about their on-the-field performance.

As momentous as the Bears’ championship season was last year, Mission would break an even longer streak if it were to repeat. Mission last won back-to-back AAA championships in 1929-1930.

“There’s a lot of question marks,” Albano said. “It would be great to talk about a repeat and all of that, but I have to be logical and I still have a lot of holes to fill.”

Albano is far from an eternal optimist, but whether he can fill those holes could be the difference, in his eyes, between a championship and missing the playoffs all together.

“We might go from first to last,” Albano said. “It seems like all the teams improved and right now, I can’t say that we’ve improved.”

2012 Schedule – AAA games in bold

Week 0: Fri. 8/31 – vs. Hercules @ Kezar Stadium, 7 p.m.
Week 1: Sat. 9/8 – vs. Menlo (Atherton) @ Kezar Stadium, 2 p.m.
Week 2: Sat. 9/15 – @ Riordan, 1 p.m.
Week 3: (Bye)
Week 4: Thu. 9/27 – @ Lowell, 3 p.m.
Week 5: Fri. 10/5 – @ Galileo, 3 p.m.
Week 6: Sat. 10/13 – vs. Marshall @ SOTA, 2 p.m.

Week 7: (Bye)
Week 8: Sat. 10/27 – vs. Balboa @ SOTA, 2 p.m.
Week 9: Sat. 11/3 – vs. Lincoln @ SOTA, 2 p.m.
Week 10: Fri. 11/9 – vs. Washington @ Kezar Stadium, 2 p.m.

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43 Comments

  1. M Air J says:

    Bold statements from Mr. McFarland. I don’t believe his talent was the issue at Riordan last year. He was not suited up for many games and when he was he was limited in his play. Hopefully he can turn it around and get focused. That appeared to be his problem.

  2. JJ says:

    That Riordan vs Mission game on Sept. 15 will be very exciting to watch, especially after that bold statement by McFarland: “I want to beat them (Riordan) by alot and show them, that without me, they aren’t good.” Seriously?? I’m sure the Riordan football coach will put that on their bulletin board. Hopefully SI isn’t playing that day in SF or there isn’t a good college football game going on at the same time, so I can see McFarland eat crow, lol.

    • JJ says:

      Dang, CAL is playing Ohio State at noon on the same day!!! Maybe I can still go to the game if the score is 21-0 Ohio State after the 1st quarter. I’m guessing Ohio State will be favored by around 20. I think Mr. masoli will throw for 300 yards, 3 TD’s on Mission. mcFarland will get 15 carries for 79 yards

      • JJ says:

        Yes! the Ohio State game is noon, eastern time which means 9 am here, I think I will be able to go to this exciting Riordan – Mission game.

        • Cats pride says:

          no one cares. GO BEARS, ohio state is down this yr.

          • JJ says:

            Go Bears? which one? CAL or Mission?? Are you going to the SI vs Menlo Atherton game in the Sunset instead? I think Mission vs Riordan will be a better game.

          • JJ says:

            Ohio State’s Urban Meyer > CAL’s Jeff Tedford. Double team Keenan Allen, Ohio State wins by 3 TD’s

            • Cats pride says:

              I meant Cal, I don’t really have a desire to watch Riordan or Mission, and I don’t think SI will have trouble with MA. I’ll either be celebrating a big Cal win, or wallowing in my sorrows.

  3. FBC101 says:

    Armani is a good kid, who’s words may or may not have came out in the manner he wanted. Wish him luck at Mission, and hope he focuses on Academics. He can be a Great Player if he focuses. Too bad he won’t be able to showcase his Talents int the WCAL.

    I think Riordan’s main focus is proving that their program is headed in the right direction, not a statement coming from a 17 year old kid. Game should be exciting….

  4. pf says:

    “Coming into a league that isn’t as good, I feel I can dominate.” bold statement from Mr.McFarland.

  5. JoJo says:

    Should be a good game – we have some game talk here. Can’t wait to watch it.

  6. ghouse says:

    Fox vs armani that would be a good game

  7. Mission fan says:

    Looking forward to seeing #6/#7/#79 And McFarland play against Riordan. McFarland’s statesment are very bold lets hope he can back those statements up.

  8. FBC101 says:

    “Summer practice participation hasn’t exactly been encouraging and Mission head coach Joe Albano has not been satisfied with the group’s dedication”

    Doesn’t sound like Mission High is preparing as it should to win in the AAA…

    Let’s see if they can compete with a WCAL cellar dweller. This will be a true test of what sets the two leagues apart.

    • JJ says:

      Has an AAA team ever beat a WCAL team in football? I remember when SI used to play Balboa in football every year and we would always win by 3 or 4 TD’s, even though Balboa was bigger. I expect Riordan to come out on top; it sounds like Mission’s linebacking crew is inexperienced which should enable Riordan to run and pass all over the field.

      • jbalan says:

        They certainly have. The SI and SH both used to play in the AAA until, I believe, the late 60s. SI won six AAA titles and SH won none. In those days, according to the AAA records, things were actually pretty balanced other than a few dominant runs by Polytechnic, which doesn’t exist any longer.

        • IC Stars says:

          The closest the Irish came was a co-title in 1957 but lost in the first round of the playoffs to Balboa. SI left the AAA in 1967 and SH in 1969. They kept losing to Lowell and after the AAA talent level dropped like a rock, they stopped playing AAA teams altogether. The last AAA opponent they played was Washington in 2004.

        • ARHS Stats says:

          The AAA did not play non-league games until the 1960’s or 1970’s in football. At most some AAA schools would schedule 1 non-league game a season.

          The AAA teams played Football Games against mostly League Teams in the 50′s and 60′s.

          So Archbishop Riordan very rarely played any AAA teams, before the WCAL was formed.

          Riordan Football Games played vs. AAA Opponents
          St. Ignatius 13 Riordan 0 on November 3rd, 1956 at Seals Stadium
          St. Ignatius was the AAA Champs in 1956. The next game vs. SI was a WCAL league game in 1967.

          That was only game played by Riordan against a AAA opponent until 1970.

          Polytechnic, which was located across from Kezar Stadium, was very dominant in Football and other sports. Poly would finish in the Top 3 in the AAA most seasons in football. I am pretty sure you would have hard time finding a Poly football team that lost most of it’s game.

          Poly Football was always talked about as one of the Top Programs in Northern California, at least by the San Francisco Newspapers. And Poly was that way until the school was closed.

          Poly had one of the best high school football coaches in Northern California in the 1950’s.

          • IC Stars says:

            I checked what I have and Sacred Heart did have some seasons during the 1950’s where they only played AAA opponents. They did sprinkle-in some non-league games before and after that. In 1940 they knocked-off Bellarmine. They beat big bad Poly in 1942. Their advantage was a huge enrollment. Poly even had girls hoops in 1905.

            • ARHS Stats says:

              Did you find any seasons that Sacred Heart played more than 1 non-league game in the 1950’s and early 1960’s.

              Most of the AAA preview articles, I saw printed in the newspapers in the 50’s, showed most of the AAA teams did not play any non-league games.

              And only Poly seemed to play at least 1 or 2 non-league games a year.

              • IC Stars says:

                We probably looked at the same microfilm at the main library. In the 50’s I found a Sacred Heart non-league game with St. Mary’s in 1955 and again in 1956. All the rest were AAA games-only. They played Drake in 1960, Serra in 1963 (and beat ’em 13-6) then no non-league games at all (not even SI in 1967, 1968 and 1969 when SI left the AAA). In 1969, SH played an independent schedule before joining the WCAL for the 1970 season.

              • ARHS Stats says:

                probably did.

                I just did not copy down what Sacred Heart was doing.

                But did try to read all the Prep Articles, since I have always been interested in what the other schools were doing.

                In my opinion, for your team (mine team) to be great team, that team needs to beat good opponents, that have won a lot of games.

            • IC Stars says:

              One more… in 1957 Sacred Heart played Stagg in a non-league game, and since this article is about Mission, the Irish beat them 33-12 that season. I don’t know what year Mission changed their team name from the Padres to the Bears or their colors from pink & green to brown & gold.

      • T&F Coach says:

        @JJ- I know Wash has beatin SI a few times in the 90’s when they played. And I think SHC as well.

  9. T Day Boy says:

    Why is everyone talking about armani and fox like wash doesn’t have running backs. I want to see how jerron responds to not being labeled a “star”. He’s got the better team and the most motivation. I think he’ll be better than both. Maybe even their other back elijah

    • Mission Fan says:

      I dont think u noticed but this is missions football preview not wash’s.Thats why they werent brought up if u want brag do it on the field not for the media.

      • T Day Boy says:

        First off, I’m not a player. I’m someone who attends all the turkey day games and a lot of the regular season games for all the teams. I’m just saying that wash is the only team that you can say that you KNOW that will win every year. They breed the best athletes and have great coaches. And just so you know, I’m actually an alumni of mission high.

  10. JJ says:

    If you are an alum of Mission, why does it seem like you are a fan of WASH? That’s like graduating from CAL and rooting for UCLA.

  11. Myles . A says:

    no matter what u say Mission is always going to be in the mix. in football and also basketball.
    cause what if Lincoln and Mission beat Riordan..then whats that going to prove ??

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