The Central Coast Section’s top football league is ready for kickoff, a seven-week grind that in recent years ended with more than one team atop the standings.
Take last season, for instance.
St. Francis, Valley Christian and Serra all claimed a piece of the West Catholic Athletic League prize, each finishing with 6-1 records. In the three seasons before that, the races ended with two teams sharing the crown.
Things should be just as tight starting this weekend, with five of the league’s eight teams ranked among the Bay Area News Group’s Top 20.
There will be no easing into it for the four WCAL schools from Santa Clara County.
Friday night, St. Francis visits Valley Christian, and Archbishop Mitty faces Bellarmine College Prep at San Jose City College, matchups so enticing that Mitty coach Keith Burns said, “Everybody comes right out into a fire.”
If last season’s results are any indication, the games will go down to the final second or beyond.
Last October, Bellarmine held off Mitty near the goal line in the waning moments to exhale, 28-21.
On the same night, St. Francis picked itself up from a 10-point halftime deficit at home in the rain to edge Valley Christian 13-10 in overtime, an outcome that prevented Valley Christian from becoming the first team since Bellarmine in 2012 to win the WCAL alone.
Special teams turned the game in St. Francis’ favor when Brandon Bains returned a punt blocked by Tre’Sean Bishop for a touchdown.
Special teams also ended it when Matt Keeth booted a 24-yard field goal on the final play in OT.
“We don’t think about it at all,” Valley Christian coach Mike Machado said this week, laughing.
Of course, they do.
“Yeah, I think the kids probably think about it,” said Machado, whose team is ranked No. 3 in the Bay Area News Group Top 20, one spot behind St. Francis. “To me, it’s on to the next one. But to the kids, I am sure there’s a few of them that are probably thinking back and knowing how close we were.
Over the past five seasons, the league’s wealth has been spread mostly among five schools: Serra, Bellarmine, St. Francis, Valley Christian and Mitty. In that span, all five have won at least a share of the league championship and all are above .500.
The combined league standings since 2012:
Serra 27-8 (three titles), Bellarmine 26-9 (two titles), St. Francis 24-11 (two titles), Valley Christian 23-12 (two titles) and Mitty 20-15 (one title), with St. Ignatius, Archbishop Riordan and Sacred Heart Cathedral all well under .500.
Side note: St. Ignatius is 12-23 over that span but won the CCS Open Division championship in 2012 with a win over Bellarmine.
This season, every team in the league except Sacred Heart Cathedral (3-0) has at least one non-league loss.
“Everybody steps up their non-conference play because you want to be able to prepare yourself for the grind of the WCAL,” said Burns, whose team is ranked No. 14, one spot behind Bellarmine. “Everybody’s always been dented and they know the bitterness of what that tastes like. They’ve also had some success.
“Most everybody is sitting at 2-1 heading into league play. It’s a great opportunity for everybody involved. I couldn’t be more excited.”
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