CCS Football Playoff Preview: Riordan and St. Ignatius both heading south

St. Ignatius junior running back Elijah Dale (left) and the Wildcats will make the 2-hour trip south to take on Palma of Salinas in the first round of the CCS Open Division playoffs. (Photo by Devin Chen)

By Jeremy Balan

The two City Catholic high schools in the Central Coast Section football playoffs have outlooks and circumstances that could not be more different.

St. Ignatius, following its winningest season since 2006, is in the elite Open Division for the second time in school history, while Riordan, after going winless in West Catholic Athletic League for the second straight year, snuck into the Division III playoffs by winning a coin flip.

The sixth-seeded Wildcats (7-3) will head down to Salinas on Friday night to take on Monterey-area power Palma, the No. 3 seed and the owner of 11 CCS titles, including a Division IV championship in 2011.

The Chieftains (8-2) beat WCAL foe St. Francis in non-league play, lost to currently undefeated Seaside, then went undefeated in the Monterey Bay League’s Gabilan Division to get into the Open Division playoffs.

Palma features at least two Division I college commits on its offensive and defensive lines, and junior running back Brandon Olivares has rushed for 1,037 yards and 16 touchdowns.

“They’re a very good team,” said St. Ignatius head coach John Regalia. “They’re playing championship football and went undefeated in their league, which is a good league. They’re good up front, especially, and they get off the ball well. That’s their strength.”

Riordan (3-7), the No. 7 seed in the Division III tournament, will also face a run-heavy attack in second-seeded Sobrato of Morgan Hill, which operates in a Wing-T formation, on Saturday night at Live Oak High School in Morgan Hill.

The Bulldogs (7-3) have rushed for 2,652 yards and 26 touchdowns this season, led by senior Miguel Redmond’s 1,135 yards, but also feature an efficient quarterback in senior Michael Bocksnick, who has averaged nearly 20 yards per completion this season, has totaled 1,386 yards and has a 15-2 touchdown-to-interception ratio.

“They’re trying to run the football – well, they are running the football,” Riordan head coach Richard Sweeney said of Sobrato. “They are explosive on offense.”

Sweeney said that he has no qualms about the Crusaders backing into the playoffs on the strength of an undefeated non-league season and the section’s new, weighted system that favors playoff entries for WCAL teams, but was most relieved to play a non-league opponent in the playoffs, even though third-seeded Valley Christian likely looms if they get to the second round. Sweeney has also brought up 12 junior varsity players to increase the Riordan roster size to 36.

“I just know the last seven weeks have been a meat-grinder,” Sweeney said. “I’m happy we have a chance to play another game, against a team outside of our league. I’m excited about coaching these kids another week and maybe more.”

While it would be hard to see Riordan advance past Valley Christian in the second round (especially without standout junior quarterback Zach Masoli, who won’t play again this week due to a hand injury), the Wildcats may have the best draw possible in the Open Division.

Palma is far from a pushover and defeated the Wildcats 41-21 in their last meeting in 2006, but Bellarmine and Serra, which handed St. Ignatius its only WCAL losses this season, are on the other side of the bracket. The Wildcats would not have to face either until the potential championship game and with Mitty as the No. 7 seed, there could be an all-WCAL tournament in the second round.

“We didn’t really have a lot of expectations going in and that’s just how it played out,” Regalia said of the Open Division setup. “The WCAL has been pretty well represented in the Open in the past and there are a lot of possibilities there.”

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13 Comments

  1. TM76 says:

    I hope the 12 JV players Sweeney brought up are going to the defensive side of the ball. ARHS run defense is going to need to firing on all cylinders if they want to have a chance at stoping that running attack. Since they use a wing formation, I hope the D line and linebackers can make their reads and stop the backs before they are able to get into the secondary. If that happens then it will be a long day for ARHS. Offense needs to protect the ball and the QB. The O line needs to be solid in their protection duties. Good luck to ARHS.

  2. grad says:

    So none of the Riordan freshmen were called up?

  3. wcalsf says:

    I understand there is an age limit to play varsity. 15 years old. That could be the case. Either way, not sure if i’d want the frosh to get a taste of Sweeney’s coaching/people skills.

  4. Chris says:

    Riordan has a large defensive line. 6’5 250+ lbs. There is no reason people should be running on them racking up yards like that. Go crusaders, make it happen.

    • Lance says:

      I don’t think the Bells have a lineman over 230lbs. Size does not equate to ability?

      • Chris says:

        Lance, you are right, but having that kind of lineman is a luxury and usually equals to domination on the line of scrimmage. I was pointing out that Riordan should not be getting run on every game and week, especially with that kind of size up front.

        • wcalsf says:

          that demonstrates the lack of weight training and conditioning program currently in place set forth by one head coach.

        • Lance says:

          That is a good point. Once the season is over the ARHS staff will have to get these kids in the weight room and contiune the rebuilding of the program with the weight training and overall conditioning of the players.

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