By Jeremy Balan
Barring a substantial upset, the consequences of the matchup between the Balboa and Galileo high school football teams are pretty simple – win and you’re in.
Washington can complicate the Academic Athletic Association playoff picture considerably with an upset of Mission, but both programs are viewing the contest as a play-in game for the postseason.
“We understand where we’re at right now,” said Balboa head coach Alvaro Carvajal. “At the end of the day, you want to win every game, but we have to win this week for there to be a next week. That’s giving us a good sense of urgency around here.”
If Galileo wins and Lowell falls to Lincoln — which is unbeaten in AAA play — the Lions (3-5-1, 2-3) will clinch the No. 3 seed. If Balboa wins, the Buccaneers (2-6, 2-3) will clinch the fourth and final postseason spot. Both teams will be eliminated with a loss.
“It’s exciting, because it’s the end of the season and all three games are relevant,” said Galileo head coach Mark Huynh. “It’s like two weeks of playoffs and it’s good for the league.”
Both teams are coming off wins last week, each impressive in a very different way.
Galileo stunned Lowell with a last-second scoring drive to win 29-22, while the Balboa offense racked up 482 yards of total offense in a 77-30 victory over Marshall.
Neither team has had a banner year (Galileo was 1-5-1 just two weeks ago and Balboa started the year 0-4), but both have found relative success as of late.
The difference appears to be at quarterback for both squads.
After averaging just over 42 yards and a 33 percent completion rate in four non-league games, Galileo junior Kyle Nelson has thrown for 811 yards in five AAA contests.
Fellow junior Eli Smoot, who took over Balboa’s quarterbacking duties against Lincoln after the Bucs lost all three of their non-league games, hasn’t been spectacular under center (he’s completed just over 40 percent of his passes for 546 yards in five games), but has solidified a position that has been in flux for the past two seasons. Balboa has started six quarterbacks in the last two years.
“The addition of Eli gave us balance on offense, which is a big deal,” Carvajal said. “He gives us that ability and he’s a smart kid. His addition has been a much-needed one.”
While the quarterback play may be one of the reason for the teams’ turnarounds, the greatest offensive strength for both is at tailback.
Balboa senior Antoine Crecy has averaged nearly 9 yards per carry, has 974 rushing yards on the year and had four touchdowns against Marshall last week.
“He’s a big part of our team, not just running the ball, but in our pass protection and on defense,” Carvajal said of Crecy. “He’s a senior and a captain. He’s a guy we depend on for a number of reasons.”
Galileo junior running back Ronzel Fox hasn’t racked up as much rushing yardage (753 and 10 touchdowns), but has been more versatile in the Lions’ offense, also leading the team in receiving (14 receptions for 253 yards and two touchdowns).
“We have confidence in our offensive team, that we can move the ball when we have to,” Huynh said. “It’s been a big deal that we have had two of our senior linemen, [Mark] Pineda and [Jose] Garcia. They were injured [early in the year] and it’s been much more consistent since they’ve both been on the field together.”
Lincoln @ Lowell, 2 p.m.
The Mustangs (8-1, 5-0) are playing for an undefeated AAA season, while the Cardinals (4-4, 3-2) still need a win to assure a playoff spot. If Washington wins and Lowell loses, there will be a three-way tie for the third and fourth AAA postseason spots.
Mission vs. Washington @ Kezar Stadium, 2 p.m.
The Eagles (2-6, 2-3) look to be outmatched by the Bears (5-3, 4-1) on paper, but can enter the AAA playoff conversation with an upset.
Sacred Heart Cathedral vs. Bellarmine (San Jose) @ San Jose City College, 7 p.m.
According to multiple sources projecting the Central Coast Section playoff picture, the Irish (2-7, 1-5) will need to shock the powerhouse Bells (8-1, 6-0) on the road to return to the postseason.
Valley Christian (San Jose) @ Riordan, 1 p.m.
Even with a loss, the Crusaders (3-6, 0-6) will be on the bubble for a CCS playoff berth, but can lock down a spot with an upset of the Warriors (3-6, 1-5). Valley Christian has just one West Catholic Athletic League win, but has lost its five league games by a combined 28 points.
Mitty (San Jose) @ St. Ignatius, 1 p.m.
Both teams are headed to the CCS Open Division playoffs regardless of the result, but the Wildcats (6-3, 4-2) will be eager to end a two-game slide heading into the postseason. The Monarchs (7-2, 4-2), conversely, have won four straight games.