By Jeremy Balan
Don’t let Lincoln High School head coach Phil Ferrigno fool you.
If the Mustangs take down Riordan in Lincoln’s home opener on Saturday, the waves created will have a significant impact on City athletics.
In the current climate, an Academic Athletic Association football team isn’t supposed to beat a West Catholic Athletic League opponent, or even come close to doing so. So much so that the leagues haven’t played each other since St. Ignatius blew out Lowell in consecutive years in 2004 and 2005.
“It’s great for the City, but we’re so focused on getting better that it doesn’t even matter who we play,” said Ferrigno, who is also a Riordan alum and a member of the school’s Hall of Fame. “We’re more concerned with getting better every week and limiting mistakes.”
Both coaches have downplayed the significance of what a win or loss might mean to each team, but the matchup also puts Riordan in an unfamiliar situation.
For quite a while, the Crusaders have been overwhelming underdogs in almost all of their football games and most certainly WCAL games. Now, the Crusaders are the favorites, despite their performance over the past four seasons, in which they have won just four games combined.
“This program is so far from being Goliath,” said Riordan head coach Richard Sweeney. “We’ve put in our work and are trying to be as good as we can, but we are not Goliath, I can assure you that.”
Ferrigno acknowledges that there is little room for error if the Mustangs want a win against Riordan.
“We can’t have any mistakes,” Ferrigno said. “We have to play hard and make sure we don’t do stupid things. With hard work comes opportunity and luck, but the hard work comes first.”
Ferrigno is also waiting until the final day of practice to name his starting quarterback, which has been a competition over the summer between senior Derek Morrell and junior Joshua Burnoski.
On the Riordan side, there isn’t even a stray scent of quarterback controversy.
Junior Zach Masoli is solidly the Riordan starter and leader on offense, and if last season’s opener was any indication, he should have another breakout game.
In a 21-13 loss to Dougherty Valley in Week 0 last season, Masoli threw for 277 yards (a season high) and two touchdowns on 16-of-22 passing.
“It’s not very fun playing against that kid,” Ferrigno said of Masoli. “He’s doing things the Riordan way, which is good to see as an alum.”
What both coaches agree on is that the game will be good for City football, with two communities coming together on a Saturday afternoon.
“[Sacred Heart Cathedral] was involved with some other City schools in a scrimmage and so were [St. Ignatius] and Washington,” Sweeney said. “I think it’s exciting to play in the City. We have good football here. Hopefully it is good for City high school football.”
Galileo @ Mills (Millbrae), 3 p.m.
The Lions will play the Vikings for the third consecutive year and will look to continue their success against the Peninsula squad. Galileo outscored Mills by a combined score of 69-35 in 2010 and 2011, but the wins haven’t necessarily been an indicator of future success. The Vikings were 1-19 in those two seasons.
Marshall @ San Rafael, 7 p.m.
We’ll find out if the Phoenix are for real when they hit the road with a whole lot of expectations behind the comments of first-year head coach Nicholas Wilson over the summer. The Bulldogs are already 0-1 this season after a 21-8 loss to Piner of Santa Rosa last week and went 0-10 last season.
Mission vs. Hercules @ Kezar Stadium, 7 p.m.
The defending AAA champions will have a tough matchup in their opener under the lights against the Titans, who went 7-4 last season and lost to eventual champion Campolindo in the North Coast Section Division III playoffs. Mission’s defense, which will be replacing its entire linebacking unit from last year, will be tested by the Hercules offense that averaged nearly 32 points per game last season. Hercules lost to Acalanes in its opener last week.
Sacred Heart Cathedral @ Terra Nova (Pacifica), 7 p.m.
The Irish open their season against the Tigers for the third straight year, but will be an underdog for the first time in the three-season series. What Sacred Heart has in talent is largely to be seen, because the Irish only return four starters from last season’s team that advanced to the Central Coast Section Division III championship game.
St. Ignatius @ Marin Catholic (Kentfield), 1 p.m.
St. Ignatius heads to Marin for their annual non-league rivalry with Marin Catholic and highly-regarded quarterback Jared Goff, a Cal commit. St. Ignatius quarterback Jack Stinn, who has received interest from the Cal baseball program, could see an uptick in football recruiting interest if he goes toe-to-toe with Goff. The game also has a history of very slim margins. Since 2004, St. Ignatius has won four of their seven meetings, but has been outscored by Marin Catholic 175-166. Three of the games in those seven years have been decided by two points or less.
Kennedy (Fremont) @ Balboa, 2 p.m.
The Bucs will attempt to start the 2012 season on the right foot, after missing the AAA playoffs last season, against a Kennedy squad they beat 13-12 in 2011. The Titans began their season last week with a 60-6 loss to Concord.
Stuart Hall @ Anderson Valley (Boonville), 2 p.m.
The Knights will begin their third varsity season of 8-man football with a 115-mile trip north to Boonville to take on the Panthers, which beat Stuart Hall 60-39 last season under the lights at Kezar Stadium.