By Jeremy Balan
At the midpoint of the Academic Athletic Association season, it’s clear that the Turkey Day favorites reside at Lincoln and Mission high schools.
Both sit at 3-0 in league play and have all but clinched playoff spots already, but the final two postseason berths are very much up for grabs and there may not be a more important week for the contenders.
Balboa and Lowell, which are currently tied for the third and fourth spots with 1-1 league records, will face off Saturday at Balboa, while Washington (fifth place at 1-2) and Galileo (sixth place at 0-2) will hit the field in the Richmond District on Friday.
“For us, it’s make-or-break. That’s how we’re treating the game,” said Washington head coach Taylan Plasch. “We have to win the next two [games]. If we lose this week, we’re out of it — or, rather, we have less control.”
After a loss to Balboa last week, in which they led 9-7 in the fourth quarter before allowing two touchdowns in the final two minutes to lose 21-9, the Eagles are already in danger of missing the postseason for the first time since 2006.
“We let them back in it,” Plasch said of the loss to Balboa. “That was a big opportunity. We made their season. That was their highlight. For them, it was a big game and they played their hearts out.”
Galileo still hasn’t won a AAA game, but opened the season with Lincoln and Mission, and was in both games until the fourth quarter. Washington, conversely, never challenged Lincoln in a 35-0 loss to the Mustangs on Oct. 6.
“The biggest thing was that we were competitive, because we didn’t feel like we matched up great [with Lincoln and Mission],” said Galileo head coach Mark Huynh. “A little bit more experience and a little bit better defense and it could have gone differently. It’s good to get those two out of the way, but if we don’t win this one, it’s really an outside chance [for us to make the playoffs].”
Balboa’s win over Washington puts the Bucs in the best position of the four teams, but that could be erased with a loss to Lowell.
Balboa head coach Alvaro Carvajal doesn’t emphasize this week more than any other, but stressed the desire to get another shot at Lincoln, which beat Balboa 47-14 in both teams’ AAA opener.
“We’re excited about playing anybody,” Carvajal said. “Things are starting to click and we’re playing better after a tough start to this season. We’re excited about competing and getting an opportunity to play Lincoln again would be great, because we didn’t feel we played our best.”
Lowell hasn’t beaten Balboa since 2008, but should be fresh coming off of a bye last week.
“We’ve had two weeks to prepare for this and if we haven’t used that time wisely, we don’t deserve to win,” said Lowell head coach Danny Chan. “We coach and we do what we can to effect the game, but the players need to play. This is the start of the real season, basically.”
Lincoln vs. Marshall @ SOTA, 3 p.m.
The one game on the AAA schedule that is all but a foregone conclusion, the Phoenix (1-6, 0-3) are reeling from a controversy-filled loss to Mission last week and have been outscored 141-28 in league play. The Mustangs (5-1, 3-0) have been the polar opposite, outscoring league opponents 117-34.
Sacred Heart Cathedral vs. Serra (San Mateo) @ Kezar Stadium, 7 p.m.
The Irish (1-5, 0-3) may have hit rock bottom with a 43-0 loss to Valley Christian last week, but will face a likely-cranky Padres (5-1, 2-1) squad eager to take its frustration out after a heartbreaking overtime loss to Bellarmine last week.
St. Ignatius @ Riordan, 1 p.m.
The Wildcats (5-1, 3-0) may be riding high, but memories of their last trip to Riordan (3-3, 0-3) should help them maintain their their focus. In 2010, the Crusaders stunned St. Ignatius with a 21-14 victory that likely knocked the Wildcats out of playoff contention. The victory is Riordan’s last win in West Catholic Athletic League play.